Interactive Qualifying Project

The Most Distinctive—and Personally Rewarding—Element of the WPI Plan

WPI believes that in order to become the best engineers and scientists they can be, students should have a broad understanding of the cultural and social contexts of those fields, and thus be more effective and socially responsible practitioners and citizens.

That’s the intent of the Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP), a nine-credit-hour interdisciplinary requirement involving applied research that connects science or technology with social issues and human needs.

The IQP is not organized as a course, nor is it related to the major. Instead, small teams of students work under the guidance of faculty members from all disciplines to conduct research, using social science methods, directed at a specific problem or need. Students deliver findings and recommendations through formal reports and oral presentations to project sponsors (often nonprofit, municipal, or government agencies) and faculty advisors.

Sustainability serves as a common theme for IQPs, many of which address problems related to energy, environment, sustainable development, education, cultural preservation, and technology policy. About half of all IQPs are completed off-campus through the Global Perspective Program (GPP).

 


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ACQUIRING KNOWLEDGE—AND PASSING IT ON

When the rainy season comes to Namibia, it brings flooding and erosion. WPI students worked with the local community to develop rainwater-control techniques and give villagers the technical know-how to address future needs and challenges.