The Wire @ WPI Online
VOLUME 11, NO. 2     SEPTEMBER 1997


Global Perspective

Nineteen students in five project teams spent E Term in Venice, where they worked on Interactive Qualifying Projects as diverse as developing an ambulance dispatch system for the city and conserving and maintaining its flagpole pedestals.

Sonali Maheshwary '99 a biomedical engineering major from Shrewsbury, Mass., was part of a team that evaluated the feasibility of using a vacuum sewerage system developed by The Oak Hill Company Ltd. of Pittsburgh, Pa., to maintain the canals. History Professor John Zeugner and Fabio Carrera '84 (MS '95), director of the Venice Project Program, were the faculty advisors for the project. Oak Hill president Alan Hassett '70 served as liaison.

Maheshwary completed the IQP with Martin Felices, a biology major from Buenos Aires, Argentina, Lauren Goodfellow '99, a biochemical engineering major from Foxboro, Mass., and Lawrence Johnston '99, an electrical and computer engineering major from Simsbury, Conn.

Here are her impressions of her project experience:

My first glimpse of Italy was when I stepped off the plane into the crowded, smoke-filled airport. All the announcements were in Italian. I didn't understand anything. I don't think I have ever been so nervous. I managed to find my way to the boat from the airport, and I was soon on my way from the mainland to Venice, the city on the water.

After about 45 minutes I saw brightly colored and slightly decrepit buildings lining the water. I stepped off the boat onto the Piazza San Marco. At once I recognized all of the places I had studied back in Worcester: the Doge's Palace and St. Mark's Basilica, as well as the famous pigeons, which flocked toward me by the hundreds. Now I knew I was in Venice.

The first week here was a bit depressing and full of turmoil. There was so much to be organized for the IQP and so much to learn about Venice and Italy. The first surprise for me was how little English the natives spoke. The second thing was that there were no dryers to dry laundry. Everyone hung their clothes out on clothes lines and let them dry in the sun. And when I went to heat up the leftovers of a meal I had cooked the day before, I realized that there was no microwave. Much to my dismay, the luxuries of the United States were far away, as were my family, friends and loved ones.

But now, one month later, I almost consider myself a Venetian. My Italian is not perfect, and I still dress like an American, but Venice feels like home. When I go away for weekends, I come back to my "home" in Venice. My familiarity with the city surprises me, and when I see tourists standing with a map in hand at the Piazza San Marco trying to make it to the Ferrovia (train station), I cannot help but laugh.

Perhaps the best part of the Venice experience has been the project work. My team and I completed a feasibility study of a vacuum system as an alternative wastewater collection system.

The city's sewer problems are increasing. Thanks to the innovative thinking of Fabio Carrera, our advisor at the project center, and Alan Hassett, a WPI alumnus who holds the HiFlo vacuum sewer patent, our project was created. Our group met with city officials, administered surveys about the current sewerage system to the locals, and became experts on geographical information systems software. The plan we designed for the implementation included a complete cost analysis. If all goes well, further studies will be completed in this area and the system may ultimately be implemented.

The cultural experience here has been more than exquisite. I can sit at an outdoor cafe drinking cappuccino while working on my IQP, or walk to San Marco at night to listen to live classical music. There are so many basilicas and museums, housing perhaps the most beautiful artwork and architecture in the world. I have befriended the woman who owns a grocery store near my apartment, and the gondoliers who bring me to the Venice Project Center office every day. Our entire IQP group has become quite friendly with the people from a local bar in the Campo Santa Margherita, where they've hung our WPI pennant for memories; another hangs in the bar near the Rialto, visited by last year's group. Carlo Chioffi, an Italian from Milan who is a sophomore at WPI and a member of our IQP group, helped the rest of us communicate with everyone and adjust to the Italian lifestyle.

The first experience I had with Italian cuisine was a visit to Fabio Carrera's family's restaurant. We had a multiple course meal, and we ate until we could not eat anymore. There are so many different types of fresh fish, vegetables and fruits available in an outdoor market every day. The desserts - from Bacio, which means "the kiss," to Tiramisu, which means "pick me up" - are a passionate way for the Italians to name and eat their food.

My time spent here in Venice is flying by. Between the IQP work and weekend trips in Europe, as well as the numerous activities and festivals in Venice, I wonder if I'll be able to see everything I want to. I think the best way to see Venice is to live here and get a taste of the Italian lifestyle. My stay in Venice, as a young college student, studying and having fun here, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience - one that I will never forget.

Venice Projects

Catalog and Maintenance System for Flagpole Pedestals for the City of Venice

Max Isola de Izcue, Kimberlee James, Mike Malchiodi and Jonathan Reynolds

Development of an Automated Ambulance Dispatch System for the City of Venice

Stefan Caporale, Maximo Cergneux, William Freed and Anna Matzal

Development of a Computerized Decision-Support System for Scheduled Maintenance of the Inner Canals of Venice

Carlo Cioffi, Vicky Dulac, José Marsano and Robert Reguero

Feasibility Study of the Application of Vacuum Sewer Technology for the Collection of Urban Wastewater in Venice

Martin Felices, L. Jay Johnston, Lauren Goodfellow and Sonali Maheshwary

Optimization of Cargo Boat Deliveries Through the Inner Canals of Venice

Karolyn Amlaw, Carie Kervin, Ignacio Mondine and Charu Vepari