WPI-Worcester Historical Museum IQPs


Humanities & Arts

When the Highland Street Foundation of Boston asked Worcester Historical Museum to host a Free Fun Friday this summer as part of their cultural programing for Massachusetts families, William Wallace, the Executive Director of WHM, called Associate Teaching Professor Joseph Cullon of WPI’s Humanities and Arts Department for help.

WHM and WPI have been cooperating over several years to enhance their galleries with digital touchscreens, video games, and interpretative text.  On Friday, August 11, 2017, when more than 600 visitors arrived as part of Fun Free Friday, WPI student work was prominently on display in the Museum’s Fletcher Auditorium.

Museum goers played a digital calliope created by a 2014 IQP team composed of Ali Fuat Becan, Matthew Harrington, Keith Lundgren, and Kyle Orfan. The touchscreen keyboard featured the sounds of one of Joshua C. Stoddard’s early calliopes.  Stoddard first invented and filed for a calliope patent in 1855 while living in Worcester. 

Stoddard was part of a rich inventive community in Worcester that cohered around Mechanics Hall and factory buildings that rented rooms with access to steam power.  These “rooms with power to let,” like the Merrifield Shops, were the nineteenth-century equivalent of today’s “innovation studios” and “maker spaces.”

In 2017, another IQP team created a digital interpretation of the Merrifield Shops and its several industrial tenants, including Dresser and Jillson who manufactured Clarke Jillson’s improved rattraps in a first-floor space.  The team highlighted how Jillson’s patent and production process emerged from the collaboration of Worcester mechanics like Ichabod Washburn (one of WPI’s founders), William Wheeler, and the iron foundry of Inman and Pratt.

In addition to building a touchscreen content management system that stores, retrieves and displays texts, images, video and audio to interpret the Merrifield Shops and Jillson’s Rat Trap, this team, composed of Roger Aiudi, Jonathan Luna, Drew Tisdelle and Christopher Welsh, also created a video game that allows visitors to see if they can assemble rat traps as fast as rodents multiply.

WPI Students Roger Aiudi ‘18 and Jonathan Luna ‘18 demonstrate the digital rattrap game that they created with Drew Tisdelle ‘18 and Christopher Welsh ’18 in the industrial history gallery of Worcester Historical Museum.