WPI Students' Research in Cape Town Garners Coveted President's IQP Award

Media Contact
February 05, 2010

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A team of student researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) who designed and developed a communal water facility to help reduce the spread of waterborne diseases in a village outside of Cape Town, South Africa, recently won the WPI President's IQP Award for 2009.

WPI seniors Marcella C. Granfone, Christopher R. Lizewski, and Daniel J. Olecki worked with the city of Cape Town Water and Sanitation Department from October to December 2008 to improve living conditions for people in Monwabisi Park, an informal settlement outside of Cape Town. The 20,000 residents of Monwabisi have limited access to clean drinking water, toilets, showers, and drainage. Poor sanitation takes the lives of hundreds of residents each year.

Following the principles of sustainable development, the student team designed a cost-effective model facility that can provide clean water, showers, toilets, and other facilities to 60 people in a manner that improves sanitation, discourages vandalism, and protects the environment. The students developed their design after interviews with community members and city officials and extensive field observations. The project was advised by professors Scott Jiusto and Robert Hersh, and the award was presented on Jan. 29, 2010.

"This award represents what is best about WPI students and exemplifies the value and impact of WPI's innovative approach to education," said WPI President and CEO Dennis D. Berkey. "Through their creativity, hard work, and desire to make a difference, this year's winning team built the foundation for a significantly improved quality of life for the residents of Monwabisi Park. We are proud of these students' accomplishments."

As part of WPI's innovative project-based curriculum, all students are required to complete a research-driven project known as the Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP). IQPs are conducted around the world at WPI's 26 international project centers, which are overseen by the university's Global Projects Program. These projects offer students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in tackling important problems that blend science, technology, social issues, and human needs. In doing so, students develop an understanding of other cultures and see how their lives and work can make a real-life impact on their host communities.

The best IQPs are honored each January at the President's IQP Awards Competition. This year, five were selected to compete for the top prize. In addition to the first-place Cape Town project, the other four finalists were

  • "Hydroponic Farming in Mahasarakham: Integrating Hydroponics into the Agricultural Curriculum While Introducing Entrepreneurial Skills," by students Aubrey Dumaoal Ortiz, Hilary A. Rotatori, Elizabeth Alice Schreiber, and George von Roth; advised by professors Chrysanthe Demetry and Richard Vaz.
  • "Wind Generation on Nantucket," by students Diana M. Berlo, Jennifer L. Hunt, Amanda L. Martori, and Justin Skelly; advised by Professor Michael Elmes.
  • "Mapping as a Foundation for Spatial Redevelopment in Monwabisi Park," by students Debra Ann Franck, William Wyke Mayo, Matthew Ryan Tomasko, and Yanxuan Xie; advised by professors Scott Jiusto and Robert Hersh.
  • "Leicester Energy Study," by students Christopher Daniel Gabrielson, Stephen William Hanly, and Laura Elizabeth Montville; advised by Professor Fred Looft.

The finalists gave their presentations before President Berkey and a panel of accomplished judges: Susan B. Woodbury, chair of the Worcester-based George I. Alden Trust; Kristin Boudreau, professor of English and head of WPI's Department of Humanities and Arts; Steven Weisler, professor of linguistics and dean of enrollment and assessment at Hampshire College; Stephen Rubin '74, president and CEO of Longwatch Inc. and a WPI trustee; and Michael M. Galbraith '58, who worked for 44 years in the chemical processing industry with Procter & Gamble, DeSoto Chemical, Mobil Oil, Pratt and Lambert, and Seymour of Sycamore.