Student research projects on flood control in the African country of Namibia and generating wind power for a Worcester high school garnered top honors in the annual Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) President's Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP) Awards. A judging panel deemed both projects worthy of first place, based on their significant local – and global – scientific and technological impact.
The first-place projects focused on important environmental issues affecting two very different parts of the world. In the first, students Nicole Labbe, Nicholas McBride, and Ethan Ray targeted ways to help the local community solve flooding and erosion problems in the settlement of Otjomuise in Windhoek, Namibia. The students demonstrated how they were able to get the community more involved in preventing erosion in their settlement by assessing problems and developing and implementing solutions. The students taught village residents how to build walls made of rubber tires to protect their gardens and staircases leading to their homes from washing away because of heavy rainfall. Since there was a language barrier, the students developed creative ways to communicate with village residents and also designed a pamphlet, with the help of a translator, to remind the residents of what they were taught. Advising the Namibia project were Professor Chrysanthe Demetry and Professor Richard Vaz, dean of the university's Interdisciplinary and Global Studies Division (IGSD). The Namibia Housing Action Group sponsored the project.
Meanwhile, thousands of miles away in Worcester, another group of WPI students helped administrators at Holy Name Central Catholic Junior-Senior High School determine that they could eventually save millions of dollars in school energy costs by positioning a wind turbine on the school's property. For two years, students Brian Foley, Tyler Forbes, Hans Jensen, and Adam Young studied whether it would be feasible to use a wind turbine to conserve energy, and also attended regional conferences on alternative energy to network with experts and learn more about the topic. The students worked to obtain necessary city permits, state grants, and federal aviation approval with the assistance of Holy Name administrators and politicians, including U.S. Congressman James McGovern, D-Worcester. The students' research helped the school secure a $575,000 grant last fall from the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust, managed by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative. Professor Alexander Emanuel served as advisor; the project was sponsored by the school.