I’ll Take WPI for $1000, Please


Fri, Mar 18, 2011


I’ve worked for WPI Admissions for a while now, and every year I think I’ve heard all the weird questions that anyone can come up with… until a parent thinks up with a new and better way to stump me.

“What’s the percentage of Consortium students who attend a university in New England for graduate school?”

“How many Electrical Engineers also have a minor in Humanities?” (turns out it’s not the same as the number of Electrical Engineers it takes to change a light bulb…)

And what about the rumors that WPI students can get around via the underground steam tunnels?

Some of the questions are weird, but the answers are all really interesting… I figured I’d take this opportunity to throw out a plethora of off-the-wall trivia about Old Tech. So here is everything you ever wanted to know (and probably some things you never knew you wanted to know) about WPI!

  • Robert Goddard, the Father of Modern Rocketry and inventor of the liquid-fueled rocket, attended WPI as a student and returned as a Physics professor. Other notable members of the WPI community include the inventors of Stainless Steel, the Segway Human Transporter, the Catalytic Converter, and the wearable insulin pump.
  • Our school colors of Crimson and Gray are actually owned by WPI  – they’re called “WPI Crimson” (R179, G27, B52) and “WPI Gray” (R153, G153, B153) – we also have an official supporting color scheme that includes colors like “Kakhi”, “Hazlenut”, “Butter”, and “Mango”
  • The official WPI Seal was designed in 1888 by Prof. Alonzo Kimball, and it includes a heart (representative of Worcester – “the heart of the commonwealth”), two books with an arm-and-hammer (signifying “theory and practice”), and the WPI motto “Lehr und Kunst” (more on that later). The WPI Seal is not to be confused with the WPI Logo, which has many of the same features, but lists the founding date in Arabic numbers instead of Roman numerals
  • The concept of “The Two Towers” is not just an idea – if you visit campus, you can see two actual towers on top of WPI’s two original buildings – Boynton Hall and Washburn Hall (named for our founders, John Boynton and Ichabod Washburn)
  • Most people will tell you that our motto “Lehr und Kunst” is German for “Theory and Practice”, but that’s not entirely accurate – “Lehr und Kunst” actually translates to “Learning and Skilled Arts” (although I do think “Theory and Practice” has a little more panache)
  • We even has our own official typeface  that is used for all official WPI letters and communications
  • WPI officially recognizes 755 different acronyms related to academic and student groups (in this case, WPI stands for “We Prefer Initials”)
  • The cobblestone walkway that runs through the middle of campus used to be a real road open to traffic (an extension of West St), but WPI traded some of its land to the city of Worcester (what is now Institute Park) for the stretch of road in 1905 and converted it into a pedestrian walkway
  • The bell tower on top of Alden Hall plays “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” every weekday at noon (although the “bell tower” doesn’t have any working bells in it – it has large speakers hidden inside the mouth of the bells where the clappers used to be)
  • WPI regularly receives high praise form many of our programs and accomplishments. Here are some of the more spectacular ones: #1 part-time MBA in the nation (NewsWeek),  #9 on “Top Colleges for Getting Rich” (Forbes), one of the “Nation’s Greenest Colleges” for environmental friendliness (Princeton Review), the “Excellence in Economic Development Award” for our joint education-in-industry programs at Gateway Park (US Dept of Commerce),   and top 10 colleges in “Greatest Opportunity for Women” (Princeton Review)

Hope that sheds some light on the lesser-known side of WPI!

And as for the steam tunnels … well, you’ll just have to come to campus to find out!

This post was written by:

- who has written 14 posts on In Our Words….

I'm a senior at WPI, majoring in Aerospace Engineering program and minoring in Music. I live in Colorado Springs, CO, but I've spent much of the last few years in the great Northeast. I spent the second term of my junior year completing my Interdisciplinary Project (IQP) at the WPI project center in Venice, Italy. I'm planning on completing my Major Project (MQP) this year working with a team of students to design and launch a miniature "CubeSat" satellite. I'm involved in clubs in just about every area at WPI. A lot of my time is taken up by Air Force ROTC cadet activities, including the AFROTC honor society (called Arnold Air Society), and the AFROTC Color Guard and Drill Team. I am also a trombonist in WPI's Stage Band and the President of the WPI JazzGroup. I work part-time as an Intern in the Admissions Office at WPI interviewing prospective students and hosting information sessions (so look for me when you stop by Admissions!). I also play for the WPI club tennis team. When I do have free time (which doesn't happen very often), I like getting out of the classroom and doing things outdoors. As an Eagle Scout, I like hiking and camping in the hills of Massachusetts and New Hampshire during the summer, and I'm an avid skiier in the winter.

2 Responses to “I’ll Take WPI for $1000, Please”

  1. Adam Epstein Says:

    Nice job working in a great word like panache!

  2. Ayesha Says:

    A job well done ! Explains all the myths and facts about WPI.