Projects

Our sponsors work with WPI students to create purposeful projects that sit at the intersection between society and technology. Here you will find examples of projects completed with the support and guidance of our partners.


Deliverables consist of a magazine-style booklet or project report, as well as other outputs mutually determined with each sponsor. These other outputs have included videos, websites, assessment materials, policy briefs, etc. Please click on the links below to see a sampling of project booklets by theme.

Spring 2021

A Citizen Science Approach to Measuring Microplastics in Berlin’s Water (Sponsor: IGB/TJP, 2021)

Microplastic and nanoplastic pollution is a continuously growing threat to our environment. The goal of our project was to increase awareness of this risk in elementary students in the Treptow-Köpenick district of Berlin. Through our partnership with Leibniz-IGB and other district affiliates, we developed a lesson plan containing a student experiment, a presentation, infographics, and reflection materials to teach students about the problem. Increasing awareness in younger generations is an important step in hopes of attaining a more sustainable future.

Final Report 

Connecting Über den Tellerrand Amidst the Covid-19 Pandemic: A Technology Based Approach (Sponsor: Über den Tellerrand, 2021)

This project sought to enhance the internal communication and engagement techniques of Über den Tellerrand, a German NGO, during the COVID-19 pandemic. We conducted interviews, focus groups, and a survey to learn about communication and engagement issues as well as best communication practices during the pandemic. Using the collected data, we created communication guidelines to improve online communication at Über den Tellerrand. We recommended the implementation of communication guidelines and further research into engagement techniques at the organization’s other satellites. 

Final Report 

Night-Time Light Emission (Sponsor: GFZ, 2021)

The GeoForschungsZentrum, a German research center, developed the app Nachtlichter for people to count and classify lights to better understand light pollution. A tutorial was needed to ensure all participants understood the classifications to collect accurate data. The tutorial was produced by understanding difficulties in classifying, creating a framework and undergoing a cycle of testing, feedback and revisions. The tutorial was tested and proven effective at teaching citizen scientists by reducing confusion as well as increasing confidence and classification accuracy.

Final Report 

Safeguarding the Online Presence of LGBTIQ Refugees (Sponsor: ORAM, 2021)

This project aided the Organization for Refuge, Asylum, and Migration (ORAM), located in Berlin, Germany, in developing safe practices used to sustain a web-based tool that assists LGBTIQ asylum seekers. We proposed changes for ORAM’s web application and produced a guide that ORAM can use to educate refugees and asylum seekers on protecting their digital data. We also conducted interviews with experts in cybersecurity, data storage, or IT to identify security measures and services for ORAM to safely collect and store refugees’ data. ORAM can use these recommendations to serve itself and its clients.

Final Report 

Spring 2020

Designing Diversity into Citizen Science (Sponsor: Studio Austen/IGB, 2020) 

Citizen science is being utilized around the world as a tool to involve non-professionals in the scientific process and advance the open science movement. However, it has been observed that there is a lack of demographic diversity within citizen science programs. Our project was designed to help citizen science programs increase demographic diversity within its participants through the use of guidelines and a video. After collecting data through a literature review, interviews, and a public survey, we determined the most prevalent barriers to diversity in citizen science and established methods to reduce or eliminate these barriers. We found that a lack of resources and time commitment are the largest barriers, and a lack of communication between professionals and non-professionals can exacerbate many other barriers to diversity. In addition, an unexpected barrier we found was that many people do not know what citizen science is in the first place. Our findings then informed the creation of our guidelines and video to help program leaders design diversity and inclusion into their citizen science programs. Through these deliverables, our project will give citizen science programs the tools to encourage diversity and align with the main principle of open science, science for all.

Final Booklet 

 

Open Source Strategies in Research (Sponsor: IGB, 2020)

Modern research institutions use software both to produce and organize their research, making software skills incredibly useful to researchers. However, many researchers are self-taught, lacking a professional background in software development. Because of this, researchers are often unaware of or lack the time to learn the best practices for publishing work in a well-documented, open source format. This leads to difficult-to-use code being published alongside research, if it is published at all. By helping researchers improve in these areas, software and hardware that accompany research will become easier to reuse and develop. The objective of this project was twofold. First we aimed to gather information from IGB staff relevant to open source methods and software, and raise awareness of best practices for open source at the IGB. This was done through a series of surveys which provided general statistics about the IGB staff relevant to open source methodologies, and interviews with several individuals providing in depth personal experience. Secondly, we researched best practices as well as available software, and based on this along with the data collected from the IGB staff we made policy suggestions to the IGB that we thought would lead to wider adoption of open source methodology and high quality software standards. By raising awareness of and providing a set of guidelines for open source publishing platforms and ideas, we hope to assist researchers to publish high quality work that promotes cooperation and innovation. 

Final Booklet

 

Investigating the Sources of Artificial Light Pollution by Utilizing Citizen Science (Sponsor: GFZ, 2020)

 Nighttime light pollution is a growing ecological threat that threatens human health, wildlife, energy, and the environment at large. This project worked with the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ) to address this issue by bridging a gap between researchers, scientists, and citizens in order to better utilize the concept of citizen science to fight light pollution. The team researched many aspects of the effects of light pollution, defined potential sources, and identified the potential for citizen science to revolutionize data collection within the light pollution research community. Two main issues for citizen scientists were identified as areas to improve: 1.) The motivations and incentives for citizen science participation and 2.) the training and ability for citizen scientists to collect accurate and useful data. In order to better prepare citizen scientists for consistent data collection, the team designed a training material guideline outlining the different light fixtures to note, shielding specifications, and window counting guidelines. The team investigated the motivations and barriers to citizen science, using this data to make recommendations for more effective recruiting. A lighting inventory was created and analyzed for multiple areas in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The information from this experience was then applied to the context of helping other citizen scientists collect similar data. Our project provided useful data and effective training materials to the sponsor organization, preparing them to further grow their research operations in regions across the globe.

Final Booklet

 

Creating Marketing and Promotional Materials for Advocates of Dark Sky Preservation (Sponsor: GFZ, 2020)

Artificial light emissions at night have caused an increase in the phenomenon known as light pollution, where dark skies are illuminated by light sources on the ground. Our team worked with the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) to promote organizations who advocate for the restoration of night skies. Our project consisted of creating marketing and promotional materials for the citizen science endeavor, the Loss of the Night app, and a scholarly journal, the International Journal of Sustainable Lighting (IJSL). Our team combined research and survey analysis to create deliverables to develop a social media plan, tutorial video, and promotional poster for the journal.

Final Booklet

 

Reducing Stigmatization of LGBTQ+ Refugees (Sponsor: ORAM, 2020)

Refugees and asylum-seekers that leave due to sexual orientation or gender identity-related discrimination are an underrepresented minority within the global population of displaced migrants. Their very existence is under threat; due to this vulnerability, their migration has an added layer of complexity and risk of isolation. The goal of this project was to design a web application that connects LGBT+ identifying refugees and asylum-seekers with targeted asylum information, as well as developing a body of well-researched documentation to help in future iterations of the project. Through our research, we’ve identified that communication and security are the two biggest concerns when it comes to providing LGBT+ refugees and asylum-seekers with the assistance and support they need. Communication is an essential service for supporting marginalized populations, with security being the most important consideration when working with vulnerable people’s information on the internet. We decided a web application was the best way to solve the communication issues faced by relief agencies trying to assist this marginalized population. In order to inform our application design as well as provide further context into the usefulness of the app, we’ve surveyed and interviewed refugees/asylum-seekers as well as humanitarian workers respectively to get both essential perspectives. We’ve addressed their feedback by designing an application prototype that streamlined our sponsor’s asylum resources onto one platform, creating a form that allows users to filter and find relief agencies and services closest to them without storing their data, and developing a database to store the information of these resources as well as a tool that would aid our sponsor in adding more entries to the database. We hope this project will help support existing efforts to advocate for the LGBT+ refugee and asylum-seeking population, and provide a framework for streamlining communication and support strategies in the humanitarian sector. 

Final Booklet

 

Spring 2019

Make the World a Better Plate (Sponsor: Ueber den Tellerand, 2019)

Our team worked in Berlin, Germany with Über den Tellerrand, a non-profit organization working towards integrating refugees into German society. The need for this organization, amongst others, manifested due to the lack of a federal resettlement programs promoting integration as opposed to assimilation. We created a standardized evaluation tool for the organization to gauge the effectiveness of their “Cooking Class” program with regards to their program goals. To accomplish this, we first conducted interviews with other Berlin-based non-government organizations to gain insight on program evaluation. We then interviewed Über den Tellerrand board members, project managers, and key staff to understand what participant opinions they were focused on discovering using an evaluation tool. Using the data from these objectives and taking inspiration from Über den Tellerrand’s current exit survey, we developed the evaluation tool. After testing multiple iterations of the tool during several Cooking Classes, we collected the results, analyzed the data, and debriefed with our sponsor. Using the data we collected through the completion of our objectives, we were able to create our final deliverable, enabling Über den Tellerrand to continuously evaluate their program.

Final Booklet 

 

50 Plates of Program Evaluation (Sponsor: Über den Tellerand, 2019)

We worked with Über den Tellerrand, an organization in Berlin, Germany, to improve their program by evaluating the impact that their community events have on both locals and immigrants. It is important to have methods that can evaluate the success of these events. Understanding the success of the events can help the organization determine if their goals are being met. After speaking with members of the Über den Tellerrand staff, our team has identified three areas that represent the goals for the integration of newcomers: creating a safe encounter space for locals and immigrants to meet, helping locals and immigrants create sustainable friendships, and reducing prejudices. Thus, our team was tasked with developing the necessary evaluation tools to help the organization measure the success in achieving these goals. The evaluation tool we had developed for the Über den Tellerrand community events was a survey instrument. We tested our survey instrument at many of the community events held by Über den Tellerrand during our time in Berlin, and refined them to capture the most important information. We also supplied the organization with methods to analyze and understand the data. Our program evaluation demonstrated that Über den Tellerrand has reduced prejudices amongst its participants, created a safe space for immigrants and locals to interact, and expanded the participants’ support network. In doing so, Über den Tellerrand has brought Germany closer to a becoming a multicultural and inclusive nation. 

Final Booklet