How We Travel

Community Transportation Day • WPI hosts Community Transportation Day, presented by The Art of Science Learning, at the EcoTarium, Saturday, May 10.
May 09, 2014

As one of only three “Incubator” cities, Worcester has the distinction of being the research site to assess what changes can be made in an urban area ostensibly suited merely to automobile travel. The challenges associated with isolating specific problems and implementing appropriate changes will be the focus of various presentations at the event.

Worcester was chosen because a lot of people in STEM and the arts came together from various organizations and showed an eagerness to work togetherAccording to its website, The Art of Science Learning is “a National Science Foundation-funded initiative directed by Harvey Seifter that uses the arts to spark creativity in science education and the development of an innovative 21st Century STEM workforce.” This creative approach to civic challenges is what will define the agenda at hand this Saturday.

“As someone who has spent his professional life studying and promoting arts-based education, [Seifter] had a theory that arts-based approaches to learning could help move people across these impasses,” says Kristin Boudreau, HUA department head.  “So his NSF study is to develop and teach an arts-based curriculum on innovation and test it out in these three different incubator cities that are each working on a separate ‘civic challenge.’”

The project also serves as a model of AoSL’s approach to understanding how innovation works to better address issues that require a fundamentally different approach than has been tried in the past.

Boudreau says, “We all recognize innovations after they’ve happened, but how do you educate a person to innovate?”

Boudreau came to be involved through Dean Karen Oates, who had been working with Seifter since he began assessing Worcester a few years back as a possible third incubator city (after San Diego and Chicago). “Once it became clear that the Worcester incubator might be able to address a challenge that I feel passionately about, I became excited about the possible outcome.”

The bridging of AoSL with the Worcester community may seem like a natural fit for those who know of this area’s dedication to scientific innovation and project-based learning, but it required a display of that collaborative spirit to prove the region deserved the honor over some larger cities.

As Boudreau notes, “Worcester was chosen because a lot of people in STEM and the arts came together from various organizations and showed an eagerness to work together. I helped write the proposal (along with Karin Valentine Goins, co-chair of Walk Bike Worcester) that was chosen for Worcester’s civic challenge: the challenge of a city that seems unfriendly to any form of transportation besides the automobile.”

Along with Boudreau and Oates, Worcester Incubator director from AoSL Joyce Kressler has been working on the challenges focused on this Saturday. “The Community Transportation Day has a dual purpose: it is to provide information to the incubator Fellows as they move towards identifying and developing transportation solutions,” Kressler says, “and it is also an opportunity to engage and encourage participation from the public.” To that end, everyone is welcome to get involved in this interactive event.

Boudreau sees this bridging of WPI and AoSL as a great opportunity to serve the community. “For more than 40 years, WPI has been a leader in project-based learning,” she says.  “We have faculty who are the best in the world at advising student teams, motivating them, and getting high-quality work on open-ended problems that might defy the skills of the best teachers or supervisors from other colleges or companies.  WPI has a lot to teach in this arena.”

The line-up features presentations from a wide range of private and public organizations, including several WPI students, mentors, and AoSL fellows who are also alumni.