WPI Students Honored for Bangkok Project

Contact: WPI Media Relations, 508-831-5616

WORCESTER, Mass. An Interactive Qualifying Project completed in Bangkok, Thailand, this winter by three Worcester Polytechnic Institute students recently won the Best Poster Award at the SARC/START Global Change Science and Policy Forum. The forum was held in late-March at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. In mid-April, several of the photographs from the poster session were shown at the Insternational Geosphere Biosphere Programme (IGBP) Congress in Germany, and an abstract of the project report will be published in the conference proceedings.

START (Global Change System for Analysis, Research and Training) is an international organization concerned with global climate change. SARC, START's Southeast Asia Regional Centre, the project sponsor, is located at Chulalongkorn University.

For their IQP, "Comparisons Between Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Southeast Asia and the United States," Sumit Bhalla of Bridgewater, Mass., David LeBlanc of Lebanon, N.H., and Armando Navas of Barranquilla, Colombia, collected data on the consumption of various types of energy within different economic sectors in nine countries in Southeast Asia and in the U.S. from 1950 to 1993. Concentrating on Thailand, they used this data to calculate emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and to correlate changing emissions with changing economic and social conditions in that country. The information was collected in a large database the students constructed and made available via a Web site they designed for their sponsor.

"The award represents an unusual level of recognition," says chemistry Professor Stephen J. Weininger, who was the students' faculty advisor in Bangkok. "These students displayed an extraordinary commitment to their work." Jariya Boonjawat was the on-site supervisor and project advisor.

The Interactive Qualifying Project is one of three projects all undergraduates at WPI undertake as part of the innovative WPI Plan, a flexible, exciting and academically challenging program introduced in 1971. Under the Plan, students are provided with unique opportunities for integrating classroom studies with preprofessional academic projects conducted on campus or at companies, agencies and project sites in the U.S. and abroad. The purpose of the IQP is to make students aware of their responsibilities to manage technology effectively and ethically.

The Bangkok Project Center is part of WPI's Global Perspective Program. About one-third of the Institute's undergraduates complete their required projects with businesses and organizations at 18 locations in North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America, broadening their horizons, learning to work as professionals in other cultures, and seeing firsthand the role of science and technology in other nations. These unergraduates represent the largest contingent of engineering students from any U.S. institution.

Bhalla, who graduated from Bridgewater/Raynham Regional High School, is a senior majoring in electrical engineering with biomedical interests. He is a member of the Indian Student Association and Theta Chi fraternity. LeBlanc, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering, is a graduate of Lebanon High School. Navas, who is majoring in electrical engineering with nuclear interests, expects to complete his degree requirements in October 1996. He is a member of the Hispanic Student Association.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute is an independent technological university founded in 1865.