Students Solve “Great Problems”

It’s not every day that WPI visitors can learn from students about air pollution in China, fish stock depletion in Tanzania, andthe feasibility of various photovoltaics systems. Or, maybe it is.

When Eric Hahn ’80 came to campus last fall, he chatted with somefirst-year students about these very topics. The computer scientist andentrepreneur whose work has helped shape the Internet returned to hisalma mater to visit with the 88 first year students who had completedthe university’s new Great Problems Seminars, a pilot program hehelped start to give first year students real-world experience throughhands-on project work. In two seminars—Feed the World and Powerthe World—students addressed global problems focused on food,health, and energy resources.

In speaking with the students about their projects, Hahn wasimmediately impressed by their fresh ideas and thinking. Thoughnot all of their proposed solutions were immediately implementable,he observed, “it was exciting to see their different perspectives.”

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