WPI Announces Worcester Community Project Center for the Worcester Community

Contact: WPI Media Relations, 508-831-5616

John B. Anderson, left, former Worcester mayor and former member of the city council, will be the center coordinator, while Lance Schachterle, asssitant provost at WPI, will be the center director.

Center director Lance Schachterle is shown with strudents who are working on Interactive Qualifying Projects at the Worcester Community Project Center.

Center coordinator John Anderson, far right, talks with (left to right) project team members Alicia D'Eramo, Matt Jankowski and Matt Griffin who are working on a plan to more efficiently market Worcester's Centrum Centre.

Worcester, Mass. - WPI today announced the establishment of a Worcester Community Project Center (WCPC) to expand the university's commitment to the Worcester community. "The center will build on a long history of project work that has benefited the Worcester community," says WPI President Edward Alton Parrish.

"One of WPI's Strategic Plan goals is improving our impact on the Worcester community. We believe that the WCPC will be the bridge to and from our community to the Worcester community," continues Parrish. Assistant Provost Lance Schachterle will be the center director.

The focus of the projects completed at the center will be the needs and concerns of the Worcester community. Projects will be recruited from private and public Worcester agencies, including local government, public interest groups, and non-profit agencies. The student teams will concentrate on issues where recommendations and involvement can make significant contributions to improving the city. "The objectives of the WCPC are to provide world-class project experiences in Worcester where WPI students and faculty can be of significant help to local agencies," says Schachterle. WPI student teams will work directly with faculty advisors to address professional-level problems presented by sponsors. Working closely with their sponsors, the teams will engage problems, research solutions and present their results orally and in writing.

The publicly-stated goal of the WCPC is to assist organizations in Worcester in addressing and solving policy issues where contributions from WPI's scientifically-oriented students and faculty are especially helpful. Through carrying out projects involving both technological and societal dimensions (the Interactive Qualifying Project or IQP) with Worcester sponsors, WPI students will develop a better understanding of how, later in life, their professional decisions will affect communities and people.

These projects satisfy a graduation requirement. The IQP will typically involve a three-person team devoting up to 1,000 hours of time to identify and solve problems involving both technical and social issues.

"The WCPC is the only community outreach in the region allowing students to conduct research projects of benefit to the community as a graduation requirement," says Schachterle.

The WCPC will work from the Global Project Center, located on the WPI campus. In addition to Schachterle, the center coordinator in charge of local arrangements, will be John B. Anderson, former Worcester mayor, former member of the Worcester City Council and currently a history professor at the College of the Holy Cross.

"The Worcester Community Project Center is a great concept," says Anderson. "Bringing together academic resources and student enthusiasm, it should be particularly useful in addressing the needs and concerns of the Worcester community; it matches this city's strengths with its needs in a very positive fashion. I look forward to playing a part in the Center."

Over the summer the WCPC completed a background IQP with Worcester Mayor Raymond Mariano as the sponsor. The project, "How Does Worcester Work?" examined two case studies at the mayor's suggestion -- the Union Station Rehabilitation and the need for a new vocational high school.

Five initial project teams began their preparatory work in September with completion expected the end of December. A formal opening of the center will take place on Jan. 22 when the first projects will be publicly presented. The projects are:

Engineering Pipeline Collaborative
Purpose: To assist the Worcester Public Schools in developing a curriculum outline and activities for a course entitled "Integrating Science 2/Pre-engineering" at Doherty High School.

This project will look at the social and learning issues of introducing and supporting a pre-engineering curriculum in grade 10 at Doherty High School. These projects/activities will be in direct support of the science content of the grade 10 classes and will be divided into four, 10-week modules. These modules are: mechanical design, force and motion, flight, and robotics. Sponsor is the Worcester Public Schools.

Overcoming the Digital Divide in Worcester
Purpose: To expand the use of the Internet in Worcester in those segments of the population that do not readily have access. Sponsor is the Worcester Information Technology Project, dedicated to opening up business and job opportunities now possible with Internet2. There is strong evidence that a "digital divide" exists, a gap between those individuals and communities that have access to these Information Age tools and those who don't. If not addressed, this digital gap will continue to grow.

The access problem is a complicated process involving political, technological, social, economic, educational, and legal issues. If this can be solved on a citywide basis, Worcester would be the place where it can be done. It's large enough with a critical mass, but small enough to marshal the various resources, organizations, and people to define and create a method to solve the issue. Sponsor is the Worcester Information Technology Project.

Redeveloping Industrial Areas for New Uses
Purpose: The objective of this project is to assist the Worcester Business Development Corporation (WBDC) by researching the history of the Prescott Street Gateway Park, a brownfields redevelopment project in the Prescott Street area of Worcester. This 52-acre parcel's history and the use of industrial chemicals will be determined. The study will address the issues of brownfield remediation, financial, technical, and political aspects, and assist the WBDC in planning and redevelopment of specific sites.

Historical research will be done to determine the architectural and historical significance of existing structures. The identification, history, and potential health risks of the chemicals will be utilized to create a risk assessment and remediation strategy for the site. Sponsor is the Worcester Business Development Corporation.

Creating a Plan to Develop and Fund a 12 Month Calendar of Activity for the Worcester Commons
Purpose: To develop a realistic plan to turn the poorly-utilized Commons at Worcester Center into a vibrant, heart of the city with a constant calendar of activity. The team will work with the city marketing director and present findings to the Center City Development Council, an advisory and consultation board to Worcester's chief economic development officer.

The team will research what types of activities other comparable cities are hosting in their outdoor venues as well as how they are funding the activity. They will also help identify resources and data and help in preparing the story Worcester needs to tell to attract users in competitive environments. Sponsor is City of Worcester Marketing Department & Center City Development Council.

Developing a Plan to More Efficiently Market Worcester's Centrum Centre Convention Facility
Purpose: To identify a plan to effectively market the Worcester Centrum Centre's convetion facility. The team will work with the Worcester marketing director with final recommendations to the city administration.

Worcester's Centrum Centre was first opened in 1982 as a 14,500 seat arena. It's a successful operation generating modest direct revenue for the city. In 1996, the Centrum was expanded with a 100,000 square feet convention hall and 90,000 square feet of function space. The convention center operates at a deficit of $1 million annually. It is marketed and booked by a combination of efforts from SMG (the country's largest arena and convention facilities management company), the Worcester County Convention and Visitor's Bureau, and the city.

The team will recommend the type of conventions appropriate for the size of the facility as well as identify other factors affecting booking, i.e., hosting capability of hotels and parking. They will benchmark the facility with other similar facilities around the U.S. and recommend a plan to efficiently market the facility. Sponsor is City of Worcester Marketing Department.

Besides the above listed projects, Schachterle has already begun discussions with Michael O'Brien, Worcester Commissioner of Parks and Recreation, on other possible initiatives. One would be a feasibility study of preserving Salisbury Pond at Institute Park through dredging and other preservation activities. Another would involve using a WPI team's computer expertise to map and inventory trees electronically in the city. This project could be the first in an ongoing series on the economics, ecology and esthetics of urban forestry.

The WCPC is funded by $1 million from the Stoddard Charitable Trust, a $500,000 grant from the Fletcher Foundation, $250,000 from the Ruth H. and Warren A. Ellsworth Foundation, and $60,000 from the Mildred H. McEvoy Foundation. These gifts will provide both endowment and initial start-up funding.

With 18 off-campus locations for student projects around the world, WPI has achieved a leadership position in global technological education. About half of WPI's students travel to an off-campus center in the U.S. or abroad to complete a project during their junior or senior year.

For additional information please contact Center Director Lance Schachterle at 831-5514.