A Project-Based Education

Students working in WPI's makerspace

The Global Leader in Project-based Learning

Projects are at the heart of a WPI education, and our signature project-based approach to a STEM undergraduate education, known as the WPI Plan, is instrumental in preparing students for the future.

Through a project-based education, students discover the value of learning by doing. They take the hypothetical and make it real, applying skills and concepts from the classroom to real problems, leading to real-world experience and impact. Each journey is distinctive, but regardless of the paths students follow, these hands-on learning experiences help them build confidence, leadership, collaborative, and critical thinking skills. It’s not just what students learn, but how they learn, that proves invaluable for a lifetime—professionally and personally.


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In 1970, WPI’s STEM curriculum was radically reengineered to provide students with hands-on learning experiences through a project-based education. Seven-week terms create space for team-based, real-world experiences, and a unique grading system with a focus on teamwork and experimentation allows for experiential learning rooted in faculty guidance. And since we believe a well-rounded project-based education is crucial to ensuring students become better scientists, engineers, and business leaders, all students are required to complete the equivalent of a minor in the humanities and arts.​


failing grades 

The WPI Plan

of undergraduates 

complete the equivalent of a minor in Humanities & Arts
7 weeks

per term for undergraduate studies

The WPI Plan

students-to-faculty ratio 

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It's not theory then practice. It's theory AND practice.

The best way to ensure hands-on opportunities in college is through projects, and that’s exactly what’s at the core of the WPI project-based education. Experiential learning is key here, requiring students to delve into authentic problems, and extend their classroom knowledge to real-world experience. From day one of the Great Problems Seminar, early exposure to the culture and practice of project-based learning and learning by doing is motivational (97% of first year students return for their sophomore year), laying the foundation for classroom work and the team-based major projects they’ll eventually undertake.

Overall, my collective experiences with projects at WPI have revealed and prepared me for the challenges and rewards of real-life work in a powerful, firsthand way.
  • Daniel W.
  • Robotics Engineering
Through project work, I have learned to look critically at problems I don’t necessarily have the answer to. I’ve also gotten better at communicating my ideas through both writing and speaking.
  • Elizabeth Q.
  • Biomedical Engineering
The project-based curriculum has given me the opportunity to gain valuable experience solving real life problems. Overall, I feel like I am part of a supportive community of people here at WPI who all have the same goal of changing the world.
  • Jacob S.
  • Management Engineering
Through project work, I learned how to work efficiently in a team of vastly different personalities and to manage my time to stay on task, produce high-quality work, and meet critical deadlines.
  • Sara L.
  • Biology/Biotechnology
Project work has empowered me to believe in my ability to succeed and see the values of my own skills and talents, as well as learning how to work as a team to create powerful outcomes.
  • Shaye J.
  • Chemical Engineering
Working on a project that has the potential to create a significant change has shown me how an engineering mind can have profound social and cultural impact if applied in the right way.
  • Jason B.
  • Chemical Engineering
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We believe a global consciousness leads to a broader perspective, which is why many of WPI’s projects aren’t just on campus, but around the world. Our Global Projects Program includes 50+ diverse project centers located across six continents ​where students complete interdisciplinary and major capstone STEM projects, as well as work focusing on the humanities and arts. Fully immersed in hands-on learning experiences and cultures around the globe, these real-world experiences are often transformative for students, having a profound and lasting impact.


of undergraduate students are eligible for a Global Scholarship to complete life-changing project work


global project centers on six continents


years of undergraduate project experiences through the Global Projects Program

Nearly 20,000

undergraduate students with off-campus project experience 

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Life-changing. That’s how students and alumni describe WPI's distinctive approach to project-based learning. Tackling authentic problems that matter to others helps students develop perseverance, empathy, and self-efficacy while also gaining valuable skills that help them succeed in their careers and lives. From these hands-on learning experiences—both in and out of the classroom—students leave WPI more sophisticated, well-rounded, globally aware, and prepared for whatever the world throws at them.

Project Work Pays Off

WPI’s unique project-based approach to STEM education has been lauded in the academic world for years, but one of the most compelling acknowledgements is by those who know the benefits of a WPI's hands-on learning experiences firsthand—WPI alumni. A survey of 2,200+ WPI alumni across a span of 39 years revealed the powerful professional and personal impact of project work and learning by doing.

Impact of PBL on WPI Students and Alumni

Advancing Resiliency Projects in Puerto Rico

In Spring 2021, sensing that pandemic-fueled international travel restrictions were not going away anytime soon, Professor Emeritus Scott Jiusto and Associate Professor Gbetonmasse Somasse began looking for an alternative travel experience for students scheduled to head to the Cape Town, South Africa, Project Center they co-direct. They weren’t alone. Many global project center directors were faced with the same conundrum, recognizing that—for many students—leaving campus and traveling abroad are essential parts of the distinctive Interactive Qualifying Project experience.

Sharon Savage ’91

For Savage, MD, chief of the clinical genetics branch at the National Cancer Institute, telomere biology may be the key to fixing what’s broken.

A Project Center Close to Home

“Whether it’s because of on-campus responsibilities or a local job, not all students want to travel far [for their IQP],” says Lisa Stoddard, associate professor of teaching and director of the Farm Stay Project Center. “Regardless of where they go, we want all students to have the chance to experience the mainstay of a WPI education.”

Alumni Success Story: Kristophe Zephyrin '21

Even as a child, Zephyrin had grand ambitions to save the world and improve the human condition, starting with a dream of creating urban green spaces in his hometown of Houston, Texas. 

Lab for Education & Application Prototypes @WPI/QCC

LEAP@WPI/QCC advances photonics possibilities.

The way it changed my view of the world translates to multiple, different areas of my life. I look at my community as a much smaller piece of a larger world than I used to. I see diversity in a different way.
  • Nicholas Pelletier '09
I am pleased to recognize the 2016 Gordon Prize recipients and Worcester Polytechnic Institute for their transformational program to develop engineering leaders prepared to tackle society's greatest challenges.
  • C.D. Mote, Jr., President, National Academy of Engineering
  • Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education
The biggest impact that project work had on me was the confidence level that it gave me to go out and take challenges head-on and have the confidence that I have a good chance of succeeding.
  • John Kopchik '77
WPI's project-based education model provides multiple opportunities for students to apply their knowledge and gain "unique professional and social advantages" that help them excel after graduation.
  • Princeton Review
  • Colleges that Create Futures