I Give

1998-1999

WPI Students Work on Projects in Venice, Italy, This Summer

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE/July 30, 1999
Contact: WPI Media Relations, 508-831-5616

VENICE, Italy - This summer, a local student has taken part in Worcester Polytechnic Institute's Venice Project Center. Led by Professor Richard F. Vaz, WPI students have undertaken development projects in the Italian city that has been called one of most beautiful in the world. With its unique historical, artistic, and architectural heritage, Venice has a symbiotic relationship with the surrounding sea and lagoon, which make its famous canals possible. Yet today, this relationship also contributes to serious environmental and economic problems.

The WPI projects provide an opportunity for students to see their work benefit an entire city. Projects are conducted for Venetian, American and international organizations and include environmental, socioeconomic, artistic, cultural and technical concerns important to the revitalization of this historic city. Here is a look at the projects WPI students are working on this summer in Venice:

  • "Hydrodynamics of the Inner Canals of Venice," sponsored by UNESCO-ROSTE, has involved Christine Biscotti of Glastonbury, Conn., a junior chemistry major and daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Biscotti; Maxwell Pistilli of Philadelphia, Pa., a junior biotechnology major and son of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Pistilli; and Joseph Zsofka of Merrimack, N.H., a junior mechanical engineering major and son of Mr. and Mrs. Lajos Zsofka.

    This project has dealt with maintenance of the canals. The daily tides flush in and out of Venice, cleansing the canals. UNESCO, along with local agencies, is trying to determine how much and how fast sediment accumulates in the canals to guide the scheduling of planned maintenance.

    The WPI students have contributed to the development of the sedimentation model by measuring tidal flows in many canals that have never been measured, and by re-measuring other canals for which the data is contradictory or insufficient. The goal has been to characterize the hydrodynamics of all the canals of Venice, both with incoming and outgoing tide. As the students have found, tide measurements may take place at any time of the day or night.

  • "Point-source Pollution and Canal Wall Damage in the Inner Canals of Venice," sponsored by UNESCO-ROSTE, has involved Alexander Borrelli of Warwick, R.I., a junior biology major and son of Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Borrelli; Matthew Crawford of Chelmsford, Mass., a junior management major and son of Mr. and Mrs. John Crawford; James Horstick of Mount Gretna, Pa., a senior biochemistry major and son of Mr. and Mrs. James Horstick; and Izzettin Ozbas of Alsancak-Izmir, Turkey, a junior electrical engineering major and son of Mr. and Mrs. Ismail Ozbas.

    This project also has dealt with the maintenance of the Venetian canals. The WPI students have worked to determine how fast sediment accumulates in the canals to guide maintenance plans. They have contributed to the development of a sedimentation model by surveying the canal walls to establish where sewer outlets are located and whether they appear to be active or not. While in the field, the students have cataloged canal wall damage to establish a correlation between damage and factors such as traffic and sediment levels. The goal has been to contribute to the understanding of the root causes of canal wall damage and to estimate sewer loads for a subset of canals in Venice.

  • "Computerized Catalog of Venetian Churches," sponsored by UNESCO Liaison Office, has involved Brian Donnelly of Doylstown, Pa., a junior electrical engineering major and son of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Donnelly; Matthew Pilotte of Manchester, N.H., a junior electrical engineering major and son of Mr. and Mrs. Gerald Pilotte; and Thomas Scherpa of Agawam, Mass., a senior chemistry major and son of Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Scherpa.

    After the flood of 1966, UNESCO promoted an International Campaign for the Safeguard of Venice. As part of this campaign, a catalog of all churches, convents and palaces was developed. But after 30 years, the paper catalog needed to be computerized and updated. The WPI students did just that, producing a computerized catalog of the approximately 100 Venetian churches based on the paper catalog as well as a past project by WPI students.

  • "Estimation of Day-tripping Tourists in Venice," sponsored by the APT (the tourist board of Venice), has been undertaken by Carlos Calvo of Framingham, Mass., a senior electrical engineering major and son of Mr. and Mrs. Jorge Calvo; Ark Gozubuyuk of Izmir, Turkey, a junior electrical engineering major and son of Mr. and Mrs. M. Murat Gozubuyuk; and Mark Hodos of Carson City, Nev., a junior computer science major and son of Mr. and Mrs. James Hodos.

    Venice is a prime destination for tourists of all nationalities. It is estimated that at least 10 million tourists visit the city every year. However, while it is fairly easy to know how many tourists spend the night in Venetian hotels, it is hard to estimate how many visit Venice just for the day. In light of the upcoming jubilee year, the Venetian tourist board wanted to quantify day trippers in a concrete way. WPI students carried out sample counts at the main transportation terminals to provide better estimates than those currently available and sought out other sources of data collection. The project goal has been to provide the best estimate of all tourists that visit Venice every year.

  • "Catalog of the Doge's Palace Armory Collections and Furniture Collections with a Survey of Visitors," sponsored by the Civic Museums of Venice, has involved Jennifer Cooper of Huntsville, Ala., a junior biomedical engineering major and daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Roger Cooper; Alex Narvaez of Guayaquil, Ecuador, a senior electrical engineering major and son of Mr. and Mrs. Franciso Narvaez; and Nathaniel Wieselquist of Westford, Mass., a senior electrical engineering major and son of Mr. and Mrs. Kermit Wieselquist.

    Based on last summer's WPI pilot project, this project has continued to computerize the collections of the Doge's Palace, concentrating on armory and furniture. It has involved photographic documentation and the compilation of an alphanumeric database, based on existing paper catalogs where available. In addition, the students have conducted an extended and scientific visitors' survey. The goal has been to provide a useful and effective tool for the management of the collections.

  • "Mapping the Underground Soil of Venice," sponsored by Insula S.p.A., has involved Nicholas Allgaier of West Hartford, Conn., a junior computer science major and son of Margaret Allgaier; John Bottino of Shirley, Mass., a junior mechanical engineering major and son of Mr. and Mrs. John Bottino; Michael Kimbrel of Troy, Ill., a senior mechanical engineering major and son of Mr. and Mrs. Chesley Kimbrel; and Garrett Sutton of Atlanta, Ga., a senior biomedical engineering major and son of Mar'I Sutton.

    Over the years, during maintenance of canals and buildings in Venice, companies have made core samples of the underground soil to determine the type of subsoil. These findings allow them to make calculations for structures being repaired or built. The analyses of these samples have been archived in the form of paper reports. The project goal has been to organize and computerize these reports to create a map of the underground soil. This will allow more precise planning of maintenance, based on the better-organized knowledge of the subsoil. In addition the students have developed the use of a specialized three-dimensional computer add-on, called Vertical Mapper, which produces several layers showing the bands of various materials found underneath Venice.

WPI, founded in 1865, is renowned for its project-based curriculum. Under the WPI Plan, students integrate classroom studies with research projects conducted on campus and around the world.