Today, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) officials and donors broke ground on a new academic and research facility, taking an essential step as the university commits to leading the Fourth Industrial Revolution and preparing its graduates for long-term success in jobs that do not yet exist. The building will provide space for researchers and educators to work together—and with partners from industry, governments and academia—to apply their collective expertise towards developing integrated solutions with computational methods and smart design to some of the planet’s most pressing problems in health, energy, transportation, and the built environment.
“This building will be an apex of connectivity—a place of teaching, learning, discovery, collaboration, creation, and support,” said WPI President Laurie Leshin. “It will create connections between academia and the rest of the world in ways that realize the development of ‘smart’ applications and technologies, as well as policies, businesses, and positive societal outcomes. We see these innovations sparking significant economic opportunities and life-changing advancements—good for our students and our city, our state, and the world. We are so grateful to the George I. Alden Trust and to George and Karen Oliver; their contributions come during the leadership phase of WPI’s next major fundraising campaign, and they are vital to making this important investment for the future.”
About the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and WPI’s Response
Today’s technology, empowered by wireless and wired systems, allows and supports communication between machines, devices, and people—and vast and growing numbers of connected people and objects are working together. According to Statista, a leading provider of market and consumer data, the number of “smart” devices is expected to grow to 75.44 billion by 2025, and the International Data Corporation expects worldwide Internet of Things spending will surpass the $1 trillion mark in 2022. And, the Institute for the Future finds that approximately 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 have not yet been invented.
This pace of progress brings both opportunities and challenges: these technologies collect, connect, monitor, and analyze data, while also remotely sensing and actuating devices. Ensuring positive future advancements will require the focus of WPI experts in areas such as data science, robotics, cybersecurity, autonomous vehicles, interactive media and game development, learning sciences and technology, bioinformatics, computational biology, neuroscience/engineering, architectural engineering and smart design. Together, they will look at user experience, data, security, and the built environment, while exploring new opportunities in additive manufacturing, biotech, and robotics.
“This facility is a testament to the university’s willingness to make significant investments to ensure that we are best educating students for the future, while also providing societal value,” said WPI Provost Winston “Wole” Soboyejo. “As in the previous three industrial revolutions, WPI is poised to lead. The WPI community is passionate about using our scientific and technological knowledge and research—and our impactful and distinctive approach to project-based education—for the greater good. When WPI faculty, researchers, students and staff come together, their potential for effectively addressing great problems and making the world a better place is multiplied.”
Expected to open in January 2022, the $80 million, 100,000-square-foot building will embody WPI’s collaborative approach to research and education that impacts the world. Situated at the base of Boynton Hill, the building will include versatile and flexible learning, research, and collaboration spaces, as well as student space and faculty offices. It will also house an integrated Student Academic Services Center, physically connecting the offices of the Registrar, Academic Advising and Resource Center, Disability Services, and Career Development Center, essential services for student success.
Designed by the Boston-based architectural firm Gensler, the placement of the building will also improve navigation and accessibility from Boynton Street to the top of WPI’s hill, which will be especially meaningful to the eastern residential area, and academic programs and centers at Gateway Park. It will be built by Consigli Construction Co., Inc, headquartered in Milford, Mass, and the project will be managed by KVA Boston. Reflecting the university’s values of sustainability and environmental stewardship, WPI will seek LEED certification.
The Role of Philanthropy:
The new facility is already garnering significant philanthropic support from alumni, foundations, and other organizations. Among them, the George I. Alden Trust, one of the university’s most generous benefactors, pledged a $5 million leadership gift to the facilities component of WPI’s new fundraising campaign if the university raises $20 million from current trustees and alumni by March 31, 2021 —stipulating 100 percent trustee participation. In addition, longtime, dedicated supporters of the university, George and Karen Oliver, both 1982 graduates of WPI, have committed a generous seven-figure gift to this project.
About Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Worcester Polytechnic Institute, a purpose-driven community of educators and researchers, has been the global leader in project-based learning for 50 years. An impact maker for higher education and the world, WPI prepares confident, competent problem solvers with a project-based curriculum that immerses students in authentic, real-world experiences.