With the establishment of the WPI Alumni Gym — waaaay back in 1916 — it’s time to bring the facility into the present and position it in a way to launch the school’s future. Specifically, its future in innovation efforts. And the fundraising component of the project — appropriately — is all about using modern, technological crowd-funding methods to turn the space into an innovation hub on campus.
Kevin Monahan ’05, a founder of Alumni Fund and a seasoned software engineer, helped set up the online platform for giving, according to Peter Thomas, executive director of WPI Alumni Relations and Annual Giving.
And where the original Alumni Gym project was the first such fundraising effort at WPI overall, the innovation center push is the first such online crowd-funding effort on campus. And it’s allowed fundraising to be a platform for friendly competition among school groups, with personalized giving allowing donors to target how their money is spent.
Thomas says Alumni Gym and the Sports and Recreation Center essentially serve the same function. Paired with a lack of needed innovation space, it led the school to consider the gym facility.
“Tech suites are in very, very high demand,” Thomas said. “Students need them for prep work on their IQPs, researching, and getting ready for projects … so this [space] fits in very well.”
Plans include turning the facility’s swimming pool into a robotics area, he says, utilizing Level 2 for Great Problem Seminars. There will be a 64-seat seminar room and 30-seat seminar room, with larger freshman classes working on topics that serve as their introduction to project-based learning.
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After a soft launch, outreach to faculty and staff, and then to the general public, efforts are under way to raise the 12 to 15 million dollars needed for the renovation, Thomas says. He is hesitant to give an exact dollar amount, less focused on how much each donor gives and more focused on how many donors step up to the plate.
It’s more about getting everyone to play, he says, calling it a “democratic way of fundraising” and a great way for the staff and faculty to have a permanent recognition “showing how much we care about our students.”