WPI’s Great Problems Seminar has been selected for inclusion in the National Academy of Engineering’s (NAE) Real World Engineering Education publication. NAE invited nominations of engineering or engineering technology programs that have successfully infused real world experiences into their undergraduate program. The goal of the project is to highlight effective methods of infusing real world experience into engineering education. Engineering deans and faculty members were also invited to submit nominations of exemplar programs. The advisory committee selected 29 nominees from 90 submissions to include in a printed guide to be disseminated in the spring 2012 semester.
WPI launched the “Great Problems Seminars” in 2007 as a new approach to engaging first-year students with the critical problems of our day, thanks to the generous support of Eric Hahn, a 1980 graduate of WPI and partner of the Inventures Group in Palo Alto, Calif. The seminars focus on problems in the areas of food, energy, health, and engineering for sustainability – rather than on disciplines or departments or majors. The addition of the Great Problems Seminars provides students at WPI with important early exposure to WPI’s project-based curriculum and helps them develop the skills necessary for success in their future project work; as a requirement for graduation from WPI, students must complete two projects in addition to their course work. Undertaken in the junior and senior years, these projects provide WPI students with opportunities to apply classroom and lab-acquired knowledge to solve real-world problems. Student projects can occur either on or off campus, and often take place at sites that are facilitated by WPI’s Global Projects Program in 26 cities on five continents.