Teaching Innovation Grants

This internal grants program is offered on an annual basis, typically with a February deadline. The overall goal is to enrich learning experiences for students and foster a climate of teaching innovation by supporting WPI educators to seed new initiatives in undergraduate and graduate education that meet identifiable needs at WPI. In 2022, the Morgan Teaching and Learning Center, the Office of Undergraduate Studies, the Academic Technology Center (ATC), and the Educational Development Council (EDC) provided about $150,000 in funding to three types of grants aimed at supporting innovation in undergraduate and graduate education. A similar level of funding for the same three grant types will be awarded in 2023:

  1. Professional Learning Community Grants: Previously called Faculty Learning Communities, a Professional Learning Community (PLC) is a group of WPI community members from multiple disciplines engaging in collegial inquiry, action, and collective learning around a central theme in the area of pedagogical development or educational development and innovation.
  2. Independent Project Grants: This grant mechanism is intended for applicants, either individuals or small groups, whose project is aimed at department or program-level impact rather than campus-wide impact.
  3. Summer Sandbox Grants: These grants support individual faculty or groups of faculty who design and test new approaches to teaching and advising in an undergraduate summer course or project, using summer as a learning laboratory for the academic year. 

This program does not fund routine updating or renewal of courses, curricula, or teaching methods.

Teaching Innovation Grant Recipients 2022

Professional Learning Community Grants 

Building Capacity for Open Pedagogy and Open Educational Resources (OERs) at WPI: Increasing Inclusion and Student Agency

Marja Bakermans (DIGS & BBT); PI/Facilitator Anna Gold (Gordon Library);
Courtney Kurlanska (DIGS); Lori Ostapowicz Critz (Gordon Library); Benjamin Pollard (PH);
Gillian Smith (CS/IMGD); Sarah Stanlick (DIGS)

The purpose of this professional learning community is to grow and scale work at WPI with open pedagogy, focusing on the role Open Educational Resources (OERs) can play in furthering open pedagogy practices. The team’s proposal grows out of the work of two WPI teams in 2021-2022: one team worked as part of a nationally-recognized AAC&U OER Institute to raise awareness and capacity to create OERs and assess the interest and receptivity of WPI faculty and students in using OER materials in learning; and the other was a 2021-2022 learning community exploring the open pedagogy practice of Ungrading.

Learn More

Renewable Energy, Just Energy Transitions, and Energy Democracy

Crystal Brown (SSPS); Soroush Farzin (AREN); John Galante (HUA);
Jianyu Liang (ME); Geoff Pfeifer (HUA & DIGS); Adam Powell (ME);
Aaron Sakulich (CEE); PI/Facilitator Lisa Stoddard (SSPS & DIGS); Mike Timko (ChE)

The United Nations Security Council calls climate change “the biggest threat modern humans have ever faced,” and some studies indicate that climate change is one dimension of mental health problems among youth. Our collective of nine faculty across seven departments aim to act with our students to address climate change by preparing them, through our coursework, to be innovators and advocates for energy solutions and just energy transitions. We will revise course content or create new courses to enable students to learn about the complexities of transitioning to renewable energies--- from the technical to the socio-political.

Learn More


Research Ethics: Integrating IRB and Ethics Pedagogy for Emergent and Applied Research Areas

Shamsnaz Bhada (ECE); PI/Facilitator Jennifer deWinter (HUA/IMGD);

Ruth McKeogh (DIGS); Sarah Riddick (HUA); Gillian Smith (CS/IMGD);

Sarah Stanlick (DIGS); Yunus Telliel (HUA)

Our PLC brings together faculty who focus on classroom and project pedagogy with the Director of Human Subjects Research and Academic Programs to think through research ethics pedagogy. While ethics is a universal outcome for all students at WPI, the application of ethics is situational, developed in response to the needs of the project, the technologies that mediate those projects, and the stakeholders engaged. Our one institutional evaluative body—the IRB—uses a committee to think through the approval process of research, yet here, we see an opportunity for a PLC to be more than evaluative and pivot to co-educating with faculty and students to puzzle through the complexity of ethics and ethics education.

Learn More

Independent Project Grants

Computer-assisted Chinese Learning

Huili Zheng (HUA)

The Chinese character writing has been regarded as the greatest barrier to learners of Chinese as a foreign language. The traditional handwriting-memorization method is time-consuming for beginners. Over the last couple of decades a “gamechanger” for Chinese learning was the advent of the Pinyin-based word processing for beginners. The project seeks to use computer-assisted learning for the purposes of a) improving Chinese character literacy, b) facilitating the integration of technology-enhanced Chinese learning, c) increasing enrollment for beginner level to provide a continuous pipeline for higher level.


Launching and Assessing First Year Introductory Courses in the Humanities and Arts

Joseph Aguilar English (HUA); PI Joseph Cullon (HUA)Lindsay Davis History (HUA);
John Galante History (HUA); Shana Lessing Writing (HUA); Kate McIntyre English (HUA);
Kathryn Moncrief, Head Theatre/English (HUA); Rebecca Moody (HUA); David Spanagel History (HUA)

While first years are encouraged to start their HUA requirement in their first terms, they arrive with little guidance from HUA faculty. Upon arrival, they find themselves lumped with upper-class people who have different instructional needs. This project aims to create a coherent experience for incoming students by re-designing 16 introductory courses across HUA disciplines to explicitly meet the academic needs of first years, initiating them into a culture of care and resilience where durable faculty-student relationships can be formed.


Physics Makerspace Laboratories: A Novel Project-Based Approach to Introductory Physics Labs for Teaching the Complete Scientific Method

Lauren Dana (PH); Germano Iannacchione (PH);
Rudra Kafle (PH); PI David Medich (PH); Douglas Petkie (PH)

We propose a new Project Based Learning (PBL) approach for teaching WPI Introductory Physics Labs. These labs, which will be called Physics Makerspace Labs are a natural evolution of current PBL physics labs in that they will incorporate Makerspaces into the laboratory experience and have students perform all aspects of the scientific method. the goals for this program are to develop a Makerspace Lab and ascertain student opinions on our labs relative to current PH1110 labs.




Summer Sandbox Grants

Designing STAT labs
Buddika Peiris, PI (MA); Fangfang Wang, Co-PI (MA)
The Math Department is seeking this grant to support the modernization of the Statistics labs for two undergraduate applied Statistics courses, specifically MA 2611: Applied Statistics I and MA 2612: Applied Statistics II to establish a foundation in statistical software essential to understand the statistical concepts practically.

German for Professional Purposes
Gizem Arslan Yunt (HUA) 
This project’s goal is to integrate career readiness into the German program at WPI by finalizing a new course in development titled “German for Professional Purposes,” as well as developing shorter modules that can be integrated into first-year German language courses. Through interactive projects and tasks in which students apply their language and intercultural competence to professional situations, the five-week course and the shorter modules will prepare students to study abroad, work and intern in German-speaking contexts.  

Jumpstarting the HUA Experience: Building Summer HUA Courses for Incoming First Year Students

Joseph Cullon; Althea Danelski; Esther Boucher-Yip;
Lindsay Davis; Emily Gioielli; Abigail Koo;
Rebecca Moody; Joshua Rohde

While increasing numbers of incoming first year students started taking HUA summer courses during the pandemic, these courses had not been consciously designed to initiate student to college-level HUA work. This project seeks to create a coherent experience for incoming FY students by redesigning and running introductory courses to explicitly meet the academic needs of first years, initiating them into a culture of care and resilience where durable faculty-student relationships can be formed.  

Remote Controlled Camera Assistant System
Ahmet Can Sabuncu (ME)
Any live or recorded experimental demonstration in teaching requires a camera system. This proposal seeks to design and validate an automated camera assistant in the Mechanical and Materials Department courses. The camera system employs multiple cameras with zoom and focus capabilities to provide varying depth of view and multiple viewpoints. The cameras are motorized along different axes. Finally, we use an automation system for remote control of cameras.

Software for Kinematics, Dynamics, and Statistics
Pradeep Radhakrishnan (ME)
The project aims to develop and test tools that can be used by students to verify their work in courses such as Kinematics (ME 3310 and RBE 2001), Statics (ES2501) and Dynamics (ES2503). Two software tools, PMKS+ (Planar Mechanism Kinematic Simulator Plus) for linkage analysis and GearTrain for gear analysis are being developed. These tools can be used to verify analytical equations, numerical solutions, and free body diagrams. Besides, the programs can generate CAD models to enhance student understanding.

Studio tool for rapid creation and adoption of Diversity in animated media
Farley Chery (CS)
Building on the theme of diversity, representation and technology, this projects goal is to finalize the development of an auto-rigging tool with advanced features not seen in commercially available character rigs. Programmers will code the methods and procedures researched throughout 2021 to create a rapid development interface, bringing students’ diverse characters to life at a level beyond what today’s industry standard.