Since 2013 the New Zealand Project Center has introduced WPI students to challenging problems at the intersection of science, technology, and society on topics such as wildlife-human interaction, awareness of tsunamis, technological innovation, diabetes awareness and Maori history and development. Located in New Zealand’s capital, Wellington, “the coolest little capital in the world,” the New Zealand Project Center has built close ties to a number of high-level government, quasi-government, and charitable organizations in Wellington and, with the help of sponsors, have designed projects that engage and challenge our students. These projects may not look like the best topics for budding engineers or scientists from WPI. Indeed, they are specifically designed to push students beyond their comfort zone and to draw upon social science methods to address human, technical, and ecological challenges.
The Wellington Region and New Zealand as a whole are wonderful places to explore with access to beautiful forests, mountains, and oceans and opportunities for hiking, biking, swimming, nature walking, and kayaking in evenings or on weekends. It is also a vibrant bicultural country where Maori, Kiwi of European decent and other immigrant groups live together in a vibrant natural environment. On the recent Good Country Index, New Zealand ranked 5th in the world by virtue of having little air and water pollution, significant educational and infrastructure investments in science and technology, and high levels of health and well-being. In regards to sports, New Zealand is home to the famous All Blacks rugby team and has an excellent cricket team, the Black Caps, who were the runner up in the 2015 World Cup. Wellington is also the home of the New Zealand movie industry with Peter Jackson, James Cameron and Weta Workshop nearby.