The Provost’s MQP Awards recognize teams of students who have completed exemplary academic projects. Winners are chosen in each department through a competition process, which reflects the true depth and breadth of academic opportunity at WPI.
The MQP (Major Qualifying Project) is one of the university’s distinctions in its project-based learning curriculum. All seniors complete an MQP, a professional-level research project in their major discipline. Using the knowledge they have acquired, they apply it to real-world professional problems and scenarios.
“The project-based MQP experience at WPI continues to provide our students with the life-changing experience of solving real-world problems in purpose-driven teams,” says Provost Wole Soboyejo. “Such projects enable our students to develop the soft and hard skills that are required for success in the real world. I congratulate our students, faculty, and our collaborators on the remarkable achievements of our project teams, and the impact that they are having on the world.”
“WPI students and faculty continue to do impressive research and design work,” says Suzanne Weekes, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies, ad interim, and Professor of Mathematical Sciences. “And, I would like to extend special congratulations to our Provost’s MQP Award winners. They have accomplished so much and have been able to communicate their work in such a way that it represents the best of what we do.”
The Herd talked with three of the winning teams to find out more about the MQP experience. The full list of winners is below; all are members of the Class of 2020.
Isabel Azevedo, Madison Cunniff, Van Harting, Rosa Reynoso, Rediet Merra Tegegne
This team’s project involved co-designing and prototyping a device to reduce gold miners’ mercury exposure in Ghana, and is the first MQP in the Development Engineering Program. The students worked closely with people in the community, learning from their experiences and expertise to develop a solution that works.
“This project was the culmination of months of historical, social, and technical research as well as an entire term of field work and local collaboration,” says chemical engineering major Azevedo. “Not only does this award acknowledge our hard work and the work of our collaborators in Ghana, but also the immense social impact it had.” Mechanical engineering major Reynoso says the experience gave her a new perspective. “By allowing miners to lead the stages of design and grounding our partnership in mutual respect and sharing of ideas, our partners recognized their own capacity to shape their own outcomes,” she says. “They were so proud of what they were able to accomplish with us. It truly showed me what engineering is supposed to be like—being able to build with the communities through collaboration to truly execute change.”
Zachary Emil, Andrew Robbertz, Richard Valente, Cole Winsor
This team developed a multi-label, natural language processing classifier that was incorporated into Livox, a pictogram-based alternative communication application. The
new classifier assists people with a wide range of visual and motor impairments to engage in conversations. “This project taught and solidified many skills around coordinating large research initiatives, the necessary components for publishing research, and how to overcome adversity when our results did not align with our hypotheses,” says Robbertz. Unlike the intense seven-week terms at WPI, the MQP gave the team a long view of their work and goals, he says.
“Our team bonded personally and professionally, and became a close-knit group of friends—we called ourselves the Dream Team,” he says, a nickname even their advisor used. “The bond we formed was reflected in the quality and impact of our work, and shined in the many presentations of our project. Moreover, we hope that our work will inspire other students to apply their talents to better the lives of people worldwide.”
Olivia Gulezian, Evan LeBeau, Ken Snoddy, Ilana Zeldin
While this Foisie Business School MQP team appreciated that experience of applying their knowledge during their medical-research focused project, they also found something unexpected. “I think what really prepared us for our careers was our project’s ability to push us to continue learning and adapting,” said the students in a group email through team spokesperson Zeldin.
“We had no prior application development experience at all,” the students said, “but we had a real problem that affected real people, and we wanted to help. Our MQP challenged us to dive deep into new technologies and become proficient enough to apply them to a real problem.” The team says they started out with a goal to develop an app, but realized the implications of that app would change the lives of people living with LAM. That personal impact changed their perceptions and let them make real human connections to their technical work.
“This award is a symbol of our ability to rise to the challenge, learn new things, and conquer as a team,” says the team. “We couldn't be more grateful for our advisor, our sponsor, and WPI's support throughout this project.”
Provost’s MQP Award Winners 2020
- Adaptation of Ecuadorian National Music for Chamber Music Ensemble (Humanities & Arts): Sarah Butts
An Environmental Analysis of Recreational Cannabis Cultivation and Processing (Environmental Engineering): Stephanie Salerno (EVE) and Jacquelyn Valsamis (EVE)
Analyzing the Built Environment and Human Behavior through the Creation of an Immersive Space (Architectural Engineering): Adam Collins (AREN), William Kopellas (AREN), David Simpson (AREN)
- BaNCE: A Simplified Model for in vivo Non-Continuous Evolution (Chemistry & Biochemistry): James Andon, Katherine Vasconcelos
- Call of Karen (Interactive Media & Game Development): Diana Kumykova, Mikel Matticoli, Kate Olguin, Thomas Tawadros
- Co-Designing for Gold Mining Safety (Social Science & Policy Studies, Chemical Engineering): Isabel Azevedo, Madison Cunniff, Van Harting, Rediet Merra Tegegne, Rosa Reynoso
- Design, Analysis, and Test of a High-Powered Model Rocket (Aerospace Engineering): Nicolas Amato, Zachary Huaman, Alicea Hyland, Jacob Koslow, Jordan Pickunka, Jack Procaccini, Saiyab Ranjit, William Roe, Jarod Romankiw, David Santamaria, Jake Scarponi, Braden St. Jacques, Jake Tappen
- Developing Patient-Centered Mobile Application for Understanding Fatigue in Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) Page 8, Project 12 (Foisie Business School): Olivia Gulezian, Evan LeBeau, Ken Snoddy, Ilana Zeldin
- Engaging Students in Energy Related Topics Using Contextualized Lessons (Physics): Thomas Young
- Enhanced Alternative Communications Using AI and NLP (Computer Science): Zachary Emil, Andrew Robbertz, Richard Valente, Cole Winsor
- Enhancing Virtual Reality Interactions with Modular Peripherals (Electrical & Computer Engineering): Dominic Cascino, Paulo Chow
- Fabrication and Characterization of Asymmetric Phosphoinositide-containing Vesicles (Chemistry & Biochemistry): Olivia Hunker
- Moss Fungal Interactions (Bioinformatics & Computational Biology): Catherine Sherman
- Optimizing Space and Workflow at the Family Health Center of Worcester (Industrial Engineering): Olivia Gibbs, Suzanne Opalka, Daniela Schumacher, Carol Wang
- Patellofemoral Unloader Knee Brace (Biomedical Engineering): James Junker, Matthew Liberacki, Brianna Owen, Olivia Wisniewski
- Robotic Water Monitoring (Robotics Engineering): Brent Rolfes, Daniel Shrives, Thomas Vose
- Segurança e Pesquisa: A Case Study of Translation & Localization of Standard Operating Procedures in the BIOTAR Laboratory (Professional Writing): Katherine Vaz Gomes
- Social Integration: Feasibility of Free-Ranging Dogs for Animal: Welfare, Public Health, and Conservation Benefits (Biology & Biotechnology): Urmila Mallick
- Tree Seedling Planter (Mechanical Engineering): Chester Barber, Timothy Esworthy, Sydney Palmer
Wildlife Crossing Development for Highway 1 in Batipa, Panama (Civil Enigneering): Samantha Lor (EV), Megan Olson (CE), Hannah Goddard (CE), and Laura Boccio (CE)