WPI History

WPI was founded just after the Civil War, a time when America was on the brink of a great period of industrial growth and technological innovation. Our founders wanted to create a new kind of university to help prepare a professional class of engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs to fuel this new era. They had different ideas about how best to educate technological professionals, and in merging their visions, a new, influential model of higher education emerged.

In this model, students not only learned the fundamentals of science and engineering, but also had opportunities to apply them by solving real-world problems. The model remains the core of WPI's distinctiveness and is at the heart of its pioneering approach to undergraduate education (see The WPI Difference). The university's innovative approach to education has produced several generations of men and women who have used their knowledge and skills to make the world a better place.

A Pioneer in Education

WPI's approach to education influenced the founders of other early technological universities. In 1970, WPI revolutionized technological education again when it introduced a project-based curriculum that has stood the test of time and is still at the heart of our approach to education today. (All students complete three projects: a humanities and arts project, an interactive project and a major project.)

Today, the university continues to be model for change in higher education. Its pioneering outcomes-based approach to undergraduate education has been widely recognized – by institutions like the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) – as a uniquely effective method for preparing young men and women for success in life and work.

Our Founding and History

The Contributions of Our Alumni

Our Campus Traditions

Most of the above and more can be found in the Online Archives maintained by the George C. Gordon Library.

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