East Meets West: Massachusetts-based WPI Dedicates Silicon Valley Project Center

President of GM North America to Speak at Event

Contact: WPI Media Relations, 508-831-5616

MENLO PARK, Calif. - In Worcester, Mass., everyone knows the philosophy behind Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Since 1865, this leading technological university has been synonymous with practical science and engineering projects coupled with rigorous academics. It's a learning by doing method that has prepared generations of students to make a difference in the world as engineers, scientists and managers.

Now that model, in which students solve real-world problems while gaining invaluable knowledge along the way, has come to California. WPI's Silicon Valley Project Center will be dedicated at a special event Tuesday, Jan. 30, beginning at 5:30 p.m., at the Stanford Park Hotel, 100 El Camino Real, Menlo Park. Distinguished WPI alumnus Ronald L. Zarrella, president of General Motors North America, will present a brief keynote address at 8 p.m.

"Thirty years ago, when I was an undergrad at Worcester Polytechnic, none of us dreamed of the role that computers and information technologies would assume in everyday lives or the extent to which they would fuel a new economy," said Zarrella, who serves as chairman of WPI's Board of Trustees. "With the Silicon Valley Project Center, we are not merely opening a new academic program; we are extending the boundaries of a vital institution."

The Silicon Valley center joins 18 other WPI sites comprising a global network that spans 12 countries and four continents. Global centers offer students firsthand experiences in a new culture while completing the professional-level projects that are part of graduation requirements at WPI. The center is a concept rather than a physical location; projects are completed at local business sites.

In his address, Zarrella will note that WPI and GM are using Silicon Valley as a new staging ground for opportunity. The eGM New Business Development office is being located in San Francisco, allowing a direct tie to the entrepreneurial and networking capabilities of this center of high-technology enterprise.

Two other WPI alumni will speak at the center dedication: Curtis Carlson, president of SRI Inc., headquartered in Menlo Park, and Michael Paige, vice president and director of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center.

In addition, WPI President Edward Alton Parrish will recognize WPI's Silicon Valley partners, including the companies that have welcomed student project teams to their businesses. Guests at the event will also hear from students currently completing projects. Advised by David Finkel, WPI professor of computer science, six teams of WPI seniors are deep into work on these projects:

  • Natalie Chin of Brookline, Mass., Justin Greenough of Pascoag, R.I., and Zac Mouneimneh of Worcester, Mass., have taken on "Laser Controller" for New Focus of San Jose, Calif.
  • Christopher Holt of Milford, N.H., Stephen Lesser of North Attleboro, Mass., and Darren McCormick of Belfast, Maine, will complete "Microcontroller ISP Cable" for Atmel Corp. of San Jose.
  • Sean Levatino of Rensselaer, N.Y., and Felix Rieper of Hamburg, Germany, are working on "Microprocessor Simulator" for Atmel Corp. of Berkeley, Calif.
  • Ark Gozubuyuk of Izmir, Turkey, Laura Domey of Chelmsford, Mass., and Kai Schutte of Samois Sur Seine, France, are producing "Laboratory Instrumentation for Rodent Sleep Lab" for SRI International of Menlo Park.
  • Erik Berg of Rutland, Vt., Jason Hudson of Cranston, R.I., and Victor Semlek of Henderson, Nev., are working on "Diagnostic Optimization Requirement-Repair" for Teradyne Inc. of San Jose.
  • Derek Fritz of Red Hook, N.Y., Brian Faull of Macedon, N.Y., and Nicholas Nigro of Methuen, Mass., will complete "Chemlogger Project-Continuation" for Microbar Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif.

Founded in 1865, WPI enrolls 2,700 undergraduate and 1,100 graduate students in science, engineering, management, social science and humanities. Under the WPI Plan, students complete projects in their major course of study; in the humanities and arts; and on the interactions between science and society. For more on WPI, go to the University's Web site at www.wpi.edu.

Members of the press are welcome to attend the Silicon Valley Project Center dedication. To RSVP or for more information, call WPI Media Relations at 508-831-6085 or 508-831-5305 or e-mail acorday@wpi.edu.