WPI to Inaugurate New Worcester Community Project Center

Contact: WPI Media Relations, 508-831-5616

COMMON THEME: The Commons at Worcester project involved, from left, Susan Black, Worcester marketing director; Paul Morano, Worcester economic development staff member; WPI junior Stamatia Basa of North Grafton, Mass.; WPI sophomore Leya Bergquist of Ashby, Mass.; and senior Guillermo Caraballo of Worcester.

NEW GATEWAY: The Prescott Street Gateway Park project involved, from left, WPI sophomore Rachel Coates of Litchfield, Maine; WPI junior Eric Millbrandt of Mason, N.H.; and WPI sophomore Mark Szela of Webster, Mass.

DESIGNING ENGINEERS: The Design Modules for Pre-Engineering Education project involved, from left, WPI junior Patrick Shaver of Clinton, Mass.; WPI junior Surachate Kalasin of Washington, D.C.; WPI junior Adam Contardo of Pembroke, N.H.; and WPI junior Nicholas Cannata of Springfield, Mass.

EXPANDING INTERNET OPTIONS: The Community Internet Initiative project involved, from left, Edwin Cancel of Worcester's Business Inclusion Council; WPI junior Christopher Snow of Auburn, Maine; WPI junior Ethan Murphy of Andover, Mass.; WPI junior Eric Kerwin of Millis, Mass.; and Thomas Wharton of the Worcester Information Technology Project.

MARKETING CENTRAL: The Marketing the Worcester Centrum Convention Center project involved, from left, WPI sophomore Matthew Griffin of Westwood, Mass.; WPI senior Alicia D'Eramo of Randolph, N.H.; WPI junior Matthew Jankowski of Goshen, N.Y.; and Susan Black, Worcester's marketing director.

WORCESTER, Mass. - Worcester Polytechnic Institute will soon inaugurate the new Worcester Community Project Center on the WPI campus. The center's opening theme, "Threads to the Community: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow," will honor the partnership between the city of Worcester and WPI throughout the course of the university's 135-year history.

The event will mark the official opening of the new project center. Six student Interactive Qualifying Projects, or IQPs, have already been completed under center's auspices. Last summer four students worked with Worcester Mayor Raymond Mariano on a bootstrap project titled "How Does Worcester Work?" in which they examined the rehabilitation of Union Station and the need for a new vocational high school. The project was completed by juniors Stephen Marcus, a management major from Vernon, Conn., and Miguel Pintado, a civil engineering major from Worcester, and seniors Jesse Milton, a management information systems major from Worcester, and Thomas Tellier, a mechanical engineering major from North Grafton, Mass.

Since then, Leonard D. Albano, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, and James S. Demetry, professor emeritus of electrical and computer engineering, have served as advisors for five WCPC inaugural projects completed in December.

"The WCPC will be the bridge to and from our community to the Worcester community," said WPI President Edward Alton Parrish. "The establishment of this center reinforces our long tradition of commitment to our home city."

Lance Schachterle, assistant provost for academic affairs, is the director of the WCPC, while John Anderson, a history professor at the College of the Holy Cross, has been appointed project coordinator. A past Worcester mayor and member of the Worcester City Council, Anderson is responsible for developing relationships between WPI and the Worcester community and for developing and conducting projects that will meet the needs of sponsoring agencies and the requirements of Interactive and Major Qualifying Projects.

The five inaugural projects included the following undertakings and students:

  • "Marketing the Worcester Convention Center" by senior Alicia D'Eramo, a systems dynamics major from Randolph, N.H.; sophomore Matthew Griffin, a mechanical engineering major from Westwood, Mass., and junior Matthew Jankowski, a technical, scientific and professional communication major from Goshen, N.Y. The project was sponsored by the Worcester City Marketing Department and advised by James S. Demetry and Leon S. Graubard, associate professor of management.

    Opened in 1982 as a 14,500-seat arena, Worcester's Centrum Centre was expanded in 1996 with the addition of a 100,000-square-foot convention hall and 90,000-square-feet of function space. The Centrum is operating at an annual deficit of $1 million.

    The students evaluated the types of conventions appropriate for the Centrum and identified factors that could affect booking such as the availability of parking and hotels. The report included a benchmark of similar U.S. facilities.

  • "The Commons at Worcester Project" by junior Stamatia Basa, a civil engineering major from North Grafton, Mass.; sophomore Leya Bergquist, a biotechnology major from Ashby, Mass.; and senior Guillermo Caraballo, an electrical engineering major from Worcester. Project sponsors were Worcester's Center City Development Council and advisors were James S. Demetry and James K. Doyle, associate professor of social science and policy studies.

    Located behind city hall, the Commons could be more effectively used to draw people downtown. With guidance from the city's marketing director, the students evaluated the activities comparable cities host in outdoor venues and how they fund these events. The data will help the city determine how to attract people to the Commons amidst competition from other groups and programs, turning the area into a vibrant heart of the city.

  • "Prescott Street Gateway Park" by sophomore Rachel Coates, a biology major from Litchfield, Maine; junior Eric Millbrandt, a computer science major from Mason, N.H.; and sophomore Mark Szela, a civil engineering major from Webster, Mass. It was sponsored by the Worcester Business Development Corp. and advised by WPI professors James S. Demetry and Leonard Albano.

    Students researched the history of the park, a 52-acre brownfields redevelopment project. Their investigation focused on the historical and architectural significance of the land and on the identification and potential health risks of industrial chemicals possibly dumped there. They provided information about brownfield remediation and the financial, technical and political aspects of this project to help the Worcester Business Development Corp. redevelop the area.

  • "Design of Modules for Pre-Engineering Education," by juniors Nicholas Cannata, an electrical engineering major from Springfield, Mass.; Adam Contardo, a computer science major from Pembroke, N.H.; Surachate Kalasin, a mathematical sciences major from Washington, D.C.; and Patrick Shaver, an electrical engineering major from Clinton, Mass. Sponsored by Worcester Public School System and the Engineering Pipeline Collaborative, it was advised by James S. Demetry, Edward Clancy, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Lance Schachterle.

    The WPI team examined social and learning issues related to the development of a tenth grade pre-engineering curriculum at Worcester's Doherty High School. The students helped to develop three learning modules: the fundamentals of robotics, introduction to flight, and introduction to forces and motion. The series will eventually run in grades 7-12.

  • "The Community Internet Initiative, " by juniors Eric Kerwin, a computer science major from Millis, Mass.; Ethan Murphy, a mathematical sciences major from Andover, Mass.; Bruce Skarin, an electrical engineering major from Yakima, Wash.; and Christopher Snow, an electrical engineering major from Auburn, Maine. The project sponsor was the Worcester Information Technology Project Business Inclusion Council; advisors were WPI professors James S. Demetry and John A. McNeill, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.

    A major issue for information technology is the "digital divide" that separates those with access to the Internet from those who lack that access. The students explored the technology now available to connect lower-income households to the Internet and investigated the social and economic issues raised by making such a commitment. Their goal was to help the sponsor open business and job opportunities via Internet2 to underserved segments of the population.

Founded in 1865, WPI enrolls 2,700 undergraduate and 1,100 graduate students in science, engineering, management, social science and humanities.

Information about 2001-2002 projects is also available