In early summer of 2017, 20 students and one faculty member traveled to Bar Harbor, Maine, to embark on a distinctive immersive project experience working with a local sponsoring organization.

Bar Harbor, Maine Project Center

Bar Harbor, a seaside town on Mount Desert Island in northern Maine, is known for its craggy coastlines, nautical lore, and proximity to the majestic Acadia National Park. Each summer, students undertake projects in Bar Harbor working closely with local historical, environmental, and arts organizations. Projects typically focus on preservation, improvement, appreciation, and sustainability of the natural environment, such as analyzing light pollution in Acadia National Park or creating an interactive virtual hiking trail app.

Population:  5,235 (2010) 
Official Language:  English
Area:  63.11 sq mi

Getting Started

For these 20 students, the IQP journey starts well before their travel to Bar Harbor—at the annual Global Fair held at the beginning of their sophomore year. There’s a lot to consider— location, projects, distance from home—but the attraction for many is the opportunity to work in a national park setting. Two terms later, following weeks of information gathering and application preparations, the students confirm Bar Harbor as their destination, and preparations get underway right away—they can't wait.

Step 1 of WPI students' Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP) journey to Bar Harbor

Preparation

There’s a lot to do before the students arrive in Bar Harbor, and no time to waste. With fourteen weeks to departure, the students jump right in—conducting research on their projects and locations and working in their teams and with their sponsors for the first time. They also complete required coursework focused on writing and teambuilding techniques, and attend workshops on safety, resources, and emergency preparation for Bar Harbor. Students describe the prep work as “integral to their success”—come June, they are ready to hit the ground running.

Step 2 of WPI students' Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP) journey to Bar Harbor

Immersion

Arriving in Bar Harbor, the students feel prepared to tackle the problems they are presented and to navigate the landscape of the national park and the surrounding area, but they didn’t anticipate the obstacles and unknowns they would face. Team dynamics, vague and open-ended problems, human considerations: these are all challenges they conquered over the course of seven weeks. They gained an appreciation for real-world problem solving—and for the beauty of the national park and the park rangers who dedicate their lives to preserving it. 

Step 3 of WPI students’ Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP) journey to Bar Harbor

Reflection

Re-acclimating to everyday life following their project experience is part of the journey. Upon return to campus, they have the opportunity to unpack what they learned in programs like “Back to Campus and Beyond,” where they discuss their projects, new skills, and how best to explain their work during interviews. In Bar Harbor, they accomplished things they never knew they could do, and are excited to share their new perspectives with the rest of the world.

Step 4 of WPI students' Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP) journey to Bar Harbor

Perspective

The project work in Bar Harbor focuses on the environment and tourism—addressing real issues of impact to its majestic National Park and the surrounding towns. The students, faculty, and sponsors have perspectives of their journeys that are as individual as they are. 

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