Media Contact
December 11, 2008


First-year students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) will present their final projects from the “Great Problems Seminars,” which feature issues of local and global importance. Topics include harnessing wind energy for homes and communities, developing solar power to heat an indoor swimming pool, education for Worcester’s Food Stamp program, sustainable farming, developing water and road systems in Sierra Leone’s Cerros village, and tuberculosis treatment in Tamil Nadu, India.

With a generous $100,000 gift from Eric Hahn, WPI Class of 1980, the university began a transformation of the first-year student experience in September 2007. The Great Problems Seminars, which prepare students for WPI’s unique project-driven curriculum and provide them with a global focus, are important elements of that experience.


200 first-year students in WPI’s Great Problems Seminars will present 60 projects.


The Great Problems Seminars serve as an introduction to university-level research and project work. The seminars take problem solving out of the textbook and into the “real world” by focusing on themes of current global importance, including societal problems and human needs. A team of eight WPI faculty members developed the four Great Problem Seminars for this academic year:

  • Feed the World is built around a sequence of projects that are tied to food. Topics range from the chemistry of nutrition to the ethics of price supports and fair trade.
  • Power the World focuses on the physics of energy resources and the history of their technologies. Project work looks at both the engineering and the social aspects of real energy applications.
  • Making Our World is based on a sequence of team and individual projects tied to major challenges facing engineering in the 21st century: energy, transportation, housing, food distribution, recycling, and health care. In all cases, material science and sustainability is the unifying theme.
  • Heal the World starts with the biology of infectious disease and moves on to the management of disease control.


Monday, Dec. 15, 2008; 9 a.m. to noon.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Campus Center

Odeum (upstairs)

Worcester, Mass.