About the WPI Projects Program

Introduction

The Worcester Polytechnic Institute projects program offers industrial, private, governmental, and non- profit organizations the opportunity to join us in providing a real-world educational experience for future engineers, scientists, and managers. At the same time, the program provides sponsoring organizations with fresh and creative approaches to problems from university upperclass students with advice from WPI faculty. Sponsored projects may be conducted either on- or off-campus.

The program is administered by the Office of Corporate Engagement, and is overseen by WPI faculty members who participate as project advisors.

Since the beginning of WPI's projects requirements in 1972, hundreds of projects have been completed in cooperation with industry and with private and public organizations. In many instances, completed projects have resulted in mutually beneficial relationships that continue year after year. The purpose of WPI's off-campus projects program is to provide an improved system of instruction through pre- professional educational experiences with selected organizations.

Every WPI student completes two significant projects under faculty supervision to qualify for graduation.

The WPI projects program is unique in two ways:

  1. students are under the supervision of at least one faculty member throughout the project, and
  2. in order to earn the degree of Bachelor of Science, students must successfully complete two such projects to the satisfaction of the faculty member.

A project is undertaken by the students through the completion of a proposal accompanied by an approximated budget. The mutual agreement of all parties to the scope and cost of the project constitutes a commitment to proceed. Students must submit complete, professional-quality reports to their advisor and sponsor before receiving credit for their projects. They are encouraged to make formal oral presentations at the sponsor's work site. Abstracts of all projects are published and widely circulated annually. Several competitions for best projects of the year are conducted, and outstanding project sponsors are recognized through these WPI publications and at major college events.

The "Major" Qualifying Project (MQP)

The MQP must be in the student's major area of study. This qualifying project should demonstrate application of the skills, methods, and knowledge of the discipline to solving a problem representative of the type to be encountered at the professional level. MQP activities encompass research, development and application, involve analysis or synthesis, are experimental or theoretical, emphasize a particular concentration in the major or combine aspects of several subareas. This project is usually undertaken in a student's Senior year.

The "Interactive" Qualifying Project (IQP)

The IQP is an interdisciplinary project that helps students understand the social and humanistic dimensions of science and technology. IQPs often involve developing sustainable solutions to problems related to energy, the environment, public health, infrastructure and planning, education, or other social issues. This project is usually completed by small teams of junior year students, and is usually not related to the students’ majors. Prospective sponsors wishing to know more about IQPs are invited to contact Prof. Kent Rissmiller (kjr@wpi.edu).

Benefits to the Sponsor

Our experience with hundreds of these projects indicates that the involvement of professionals from off- campus organizations is of enormous benefit to the student, the faculty, and the organization.

The benefits to the organization include:

Sponsorship of projects may take the form either of occasional provision of single topics, or of on-going participation by providing multiple topics annually. some organizations in the latter category (i.e., Norton Co.; Lucent Technologies, General Electric) have entered into an agreement with WPI to cooperate through a formal project center based at the company.

Proposing a Project

Although organizations present a wide spectrum of topics as proposed projects, two significant requirements affect WPI's capacity to respond:

An organization wishing to propose a project should compose a brief narrative that clearly states the problem or the objective(s) of the project. In addition, a Project Liaison and a Logistics Liaison should be identified by the sponsoring organization. The Project Liaison will work directly with the student(s), while the Logistics Liaison coordinates all administrative arrangements for the sponsor. To submit a proposal, simply compose a description of the project's scope, background needed, # of students, and expected outcomes.  This should be sent via e-mail to the Assistant Vice President/Corporate Engagement, Lori Glover (lglover@wpi.edu).  The ideal time to propose a project is early in January, for projects beginning in the Fall.

Selecting Your Project

Project proposals are offered to WPI students annually each spring with advice and counseling by WPI faculty and administrators, resulting in a decision by the students(s) in March/April to select a project which meets their educational needs and to which they are willing to dedicate their efforts to satisfy the objectives of the sponsoring organization. This selection process includes the soliciting of a commitment from faculty member to act as the project advisor.

Project topics proposed by the sponsor are reviewed by the faculty advisor, who will then contact the topic proposer to negotiate the details of the topic to the mutual satisfaction of the sponsor and WPI. Depending on the nature of the topic being addressed, a mutually agreeable timetable and action plan will be determined. Most students wish to start their project at the beginning of the academic year (late August).

The minimum student effort on each qualifying project is equivalent to the effort associated with three (3) full-time courses, or approximately fifty (50) hours per week for a seven-week term. A schedule of fifteen (15) hours per week for a twenty-one (21) week period could also be negotiated. Other scenarios are possible, subject to agreement by all parties.

Support

The sponsor is requested to identify suitable project topics of interest to the organization and to provide the support necessary to solve them. The sponsor, however, is expected to provide the support that it would normally provide its own staff if they were executing the project. Financial support in the form of a "project fee" is required for a Major Qualifying Project (MQP). This fee is generally negotiated to be between $5-15K plus direct expenses, depending on the level of difficulty of the project, and the number of students needed to accomplish the goal. Administrative concerns that the sponsor might have with regard to the projects program (such as confidentiality of proprietary information) should be addressed to WPI's Office of Corporate Engagement. The usual manner for establishing safeguards is through the signing of an agreement between the sponsor and WPI.

WPI Will Provide:

  1. teams of WPI students (usually two or three) with backgrounds appropriate to pursuing the project topic successfully; the size of a project-team is subject to the approval of the faculty advisor.
  2. a WPI faculty advisor assigned to the project; responsibilities include advising the student(s) monitoring satisfactory progress, and assessing final outcomes including grading the final report.
  3. assistance through the Office of Corporate Engagement in submitting proposed topics to students and faculty, and in drawing up all agreements required to regulate the conditions of project execution (such as Letters of Intent, and Legal Agreements relative to insurance and/or the protection of confidential or proprietary information).
  4. the following insurance on students registered for all campus projects:
    • Voluntary Workers Compensation. Coverage under this policy insures students for Workers Compensation benefits similar to the College's obligations under State Workers Compensation Laws to its employees. This coverage is extended by the student's own medical or health insurance which is required by WPI of all students registered for off-campus projects.
    • Comprehensive General Liability. Coverage under this policy insures Bodily and Personal injury ($1,000,000 each occurrence/$1,000,0000 aggregate) and Property Damage ($1,000,000 each occurrence/$1,000,000 aggregate).
    • Excess Liability (Umbrella). Coverage under this policy broadens primary liability coverage's, and increases the limit of liability ($10,000,000).

To Participate

To obtain proposal forms, a suggested format for a legal agreement, or if you have any questions about the WPI Projects Program, contact Lori Glover, Assistant Vice President/Corporate Engagement, at +1-508-831-4168.

Copies of these forms are also downloadable at this web site. By clicking the "Back" button below, you will return to the main page for Corporate Sponsorship. There you will find the list of forms required for participation; simply print them out, complete them, and mail them to:

WPI Projects Program
Office of Corporate Engagement
100 Institute Road
Worcester, MA 01609-2280

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Last modified: May 25, 2011 15:08:39