Interactive Qualifying Projects

The Interactive Qualifying Project, or IQP as it is known on campus, is WPI's most distinctive academic requirement, and is unique in higher education. The IQP challenges students to address a problem that lies at the intersection of science/technology and social issues and is done under the direct guidance of one or more faculty advisors, usually in teams of 2-4 students.

The objective of this interdisciplinary requirement is to enable WPI graduates to understand, as citizens and as professionals, how their careers will affect society at large. Generally, these projects involve some analysis of how technology affects, and is affected by, individuals and communities. Many of the projects are proposed by external agencies or organizations. About 60% of all IQPs are completed through the Global Perspective Program at one of WPI's Project Centers  in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia, or Europe. Learn more about some of the IQPs that our Humanities & Arts students have recently completed and how their IQP experiences made a meaningful impact on the lives of people all over the globe.

Project Title

Evaluating 'Business Opportunities with Solar Energy in Un-electrified Areas' in Namibia

Project Authors

  • Heidi P Robertson, BE
  • John Andrew Sandbrook, CS
  • Chelsea C Sheehan, BIO

Project Description

A large proportion of Namibia does not have access to grid electricity and will not be electrified for many years. There is enormous pressure on government agencies such as the Ministry of Mines and Energy to rectify this problem as the lack of electricity is hindering the country’s economic and societal growth. In an effort to provide energy to these areas, the Desert Research Foundation of Namibia (DRFN) implemented ten "energy shops" in un-electrified areas to provide basic energy services such as cell phone charging and haircutting.

WPI students assessed the performance of this DRFN pilot program by evaluating economic success, technical capacity, social implications, and customer satisfaction. Data analysis, entrepreneur interviews, community member surveys, and first hand observations allowed them to determine each shop's performance in those areas.

The students concluded that the energy shops were economically viable, that the social implications of the energy shops were mostly positive since they provide employment opportunities while delivering a needed service to rural communities, and finally, that the energy shop concept is feasible on a larger scale, due to the 75% satisfactory economic performance, positive rating by customers, and the potential for a rolling implementation plan. Learn more... (pdf, 2806 kb)


Project Title

Two Sides to Every Story: A Case of Environmental Communication in Mae Moh, Thailand

Project Authors

  • Ryan William Eley, CE
  • Timothy C Grant, CE
  • Alexandra Valeria Kulinkina, CE
  • Alexandra M Sanseverino, BIO

Project Description

WPI students addressed the environmental health communication techniques used by the coal mine and power plant of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) in rural Mae Moh. In the past, EGAT was the cause of environmental disasters in which SO2 emissions soared, causing environmental and physical health effects to the surrounding areas. With such disasters at stake, communication of pollution levels became an important objective for EGAT.

The students’ goals were to identify EGAT‘s environmental communication strategies and residents’ information needs to determine areas for improvement. They accomplished this goal through interviews with EGAT employees and discussion with residents of three Mae Moh villages. Through their fieldwork, they found that information accessibility, information comprehensibility, and trust emerged as the main barriers to communication that prevent positive reception by the villagers.

They concluded their report with communication guidelines addressing information access and comprehension and with further recommendations for EGAT regarding increased interaction with villagers. Although the root issues are far deeper than simple communication adjustments can resolve, these students provided practical suggestions that can begin to increase the reception of environmental information. Learn more... (pdf, 1906 kb)