Fish Farming Project Wins Top Honors at WPI

Contact: WPI Media Relations, 508-831-5616

WORCESTER, Mass. - Earlier this year, two Worcester Polytechnic Institute students took on the job of helping a developing nation take better advantage of fish farming. The highly successful project, which promises to raise standards of living and contribute to better nutrition, can further be applied to nations around the world.

Now that project has contributed to the success and honors for the students who tackled it.

On Dec. 6, WPI's annual President's Interactive Qualifying Project Awards Competition judged the top five of the 230 such projects completed this year. Each IQP, as they are called, examines an interaction between science and society. These projects are a requirement for graduating from this technological university in Worcester, Mass.

This year's projects came from a diverse group, all completed at international locations, from Costa Rica, to London, England, to Thailand. Besides the winning entry on fish farming, other competing projects researched the following questions:

What effect will the relocation of a Thai village have upon its inhabitants?

How can fragile historic documents in a London museum be made available to modern scholars?

What must Costa Rican fire departments do to exchange life-and-death information during an emergency?

What can be done to improve working conditions in a London hospital for the severely disabled?

In the IQP competition, the five teams of students made presentations before a panel of judges: WPI President Edward Alton Parrish; John Zeugner, WPI professor of history; Caspar Wenk, dean of the Institute of Animal Nutrition at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology; Thomas Rozzell, director of fellowship at the National Academies-National Research Council; and Elye Pitts of the Africa-America Institute.

Here are the results of the 2000 competition:

  • First place: Abel Alvarez-Calderon of Lima, Peru, a junior management engineering major; and Karen Kosinski of Middletown, R.I., a junior biotechnology major, for "Aquaculture Techniques Applicable to Developing Nations." This WPI team initially planned their project for Zimbabwe, Africa; however, those plans were quashed because of political problems. With only three weeks to regroup, Alvarez-Calderon and Kosinski reworked their project for Costa Rica, where they achieved the goal of helping fish farmers become more efficient and profitable. They studied the operation of one of the country's largest fish hatcheries, learning about fish feeding, development and breeding, while researching smaller, more typical fish farms in rural Costa Rica. They compiled information from surveys and field studies to produce a working manual for fish farmers. After distributing the manual to several producers, they verified that farmers found the manual easy to understand and useful; they now hope to translate the manual for use in other countries.

  • Two four-member teams tied for second place: Shauna Malone of Guilford, Conn., a junior biotechnology major; W. Lucas Churchill of New Gloucester, Maine, a junior mechanical engineering major; Jimmy Cook of Dallas, Texas, a senior mechanical engineering major; and Felix Rieper of Hamburg, Germany, a junior computer science major, for "Geographic Information System (GIS) Development in Costa Rica"; and Steven Meyer of Mount Pleasant, S.C., a senior biomedical engineering major; Daniel Erickson of Franklin, Mass., a senior chemistry major; Ruben Brito of Salem, N.H., a senior electrical engineering major; and Joanna Cosimini of Rehoboth, Mass., a senior biomedical engineering major for "A Study of Employee Satisfaction at the Royal Hospital for Neurodisability."

    The GIS project was sponsored by the Costa Rican National Fire Department, which had been struggling with communications during emergencies. The students suggested the use of a GIS, a computer-based system that combines maps and demographic data. The Royal Hospital project, based in London, looked at a stressful working environment at a facility for the profoundly disabled. The team provided recommendations based on extensive research, receiving high praise from the hospital staff as a result.

  • Two three-member teams tied for third place: Christopher Holt of Milford, Mass., a computer science major; Micah Kiffer of Kempton, Pa., a senior mechanical engineering major; and Keith Peterson of Wrentham, Mass., a senior electrical engineering major, for "Transcription and Cataloguing of the Robinson Reports"; and Justin D. Greenough of Pascoag, R.I., a senior computer science major; Stephanie D. Janeczko of Wood-Ridge, N.J., a 2000 graduate biology major; and Thomas J. Pfeiffer of Cortlandt Manor, N.Y., a senior biotechnology major, for "An Assessment of the Impacts of Relocation in a Thai Village."

    For the Robinson Reports project, students devised a system to make important historical papers more accessible to scholars at a London museum. In the village relocation project, WPI team members assessed the financial, political, health and social impacts of a relocation program in Thailand.

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