VOLUME 11, NO. 1 MAY 1997
Six WPI students departed for India shortly after the end of C Term in early March to begin a bootstrap Interactive Qualifying Project that established the university's India Project Program. "The students lived at PSG College of Technology in Coimbatore, a city of 2.25 million in the south of India," says civil and environmental engineering Associate Professor P. Jayachandran, who helped establish the program and is its co-director. "The college is one of the top schools of engineering and science in India," he says. "It is funded by PSG Industrial Institute, where students can do industry-based projects."
Originally from India, Jayachandran got to know Professor S. Rajasekaran, PSG's Civil Engineering Department head, when the two did research together in the late 1960s. "I've kept in touch with him over the years and saw an opportunity to establish this program there," he says. "I hope to work with him in the future as we both share common research interests. This is an excellent opportunity for the students and will set the stage for a possible exchange program between our two colleges. PSG also has a project-based curriculum, so we have much in common."
W. A. Bland Addison Jr., associate professor of history, was the students' project advisor. "Indian culture is rich in centuries of traditions and customs remarkably different from the West," he says. "Our students are very excited about carrying out technical work in an environment so removed from their everyday experience at WPI."
During their stay in India the project team remained in contact with WPI via e-mail. Luke Poppish conveyed his impressions and feelings about being a stranger in a strange land. What follows are some excerpts:
Understanding and conceltualizing how people live and how things operate in this country can only be achieved through living here. No textbook or film can fully prepare someone for what to expect...
The population density is incredible, and the poverty level is overwhelming at times. It's difficult to walk through the streets every day without feeling a sense of helplessness. That feeling has affected and changed me more than anything else here in India...
I realized that I wasn't in Kansas anymore. I was in a country, literally on the other side of the world, and it looked nothing like the U.S...
I wanted to turn around and go back to the comforts of home. Now that I'm here, I'm glad that I didn't. There is no substitute for what I've gained here, both mentally and emotionally... I'll look at things in a different light when I return to Worcester - some for the better, some for the worse.
History Professor John Zeugner traveled to Coimbatore in January to finalize arrangements. Rajasekaran understood the nature and extent of the IQPs, says Zeugner. "He has a number
of their Indian equivalents ongoing at PSG and would be willing and anxious to integrate his projects or his students into our projects."
Follow-up opportunities between WPI and PSG include a visit this summer by graduate student George Pissimissis, who will work with Rajasekaran. "We also plan on following up with structural engineering and design MQPs this fall," says Jayachandran.
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