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Beyond These Towers

The Campaign for Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Got Cardboard? MQP Students Working for Environmental Sustainability Beyond These Towers

April 19, 2022

To ensure graduates are as prepared as possible to enter the workforce, WPI requires each senior to complete a Major Qualifying Project (MQP). Often working with sponsor organizations, students apply the theory and practice they acquire during their undergraduate years to technical projects in their major course of study. The goal is to use the university’s founding tenets to earn mastery in their field and make a positive impact beyond the iconic towers of Boynton Hall and Washburn Shops.

The culmination of the MQP consists of successfully communicating the project’s learning outcomes, which include an understanding of the scientific, social, and ethical dimensions of the problem as well as clearly demonstrating knowledge appropriate to the student’s specific major. For their MQP, Nathan Bargman ’22, Kaitlyn Fisher ’22, Mary Marquette ’22, Garett Ruping ‘22, Conrad Tulig ‘22, and Lauren Wach ’22 worked to develop a robot that sorts cardboard for recycling.

Under the premise that a growing global population and recently imposed higher material purity standards require more efficient waste-sorting methods, Bargman and Fisher’s MQP looked for an automated solution to this pressing problem. Reflecting on his MQP experience, Bargman says, “As with most of WPI’s project-based learning, getting to work together with a team to produce something that can have a real impact on the world is a powerful experience.” He added, “Having the ability to get our hands on and build upon a physical system was exciting and rewarding as we developed the robot throughout the year.”

MQPs provide students with value on multiple fronts. In this case, the team members gained a deeper understanding of the current global waste problem and their role in solving that problem. “Through research it is evident that cities across the United States have a long way to go to match the highest levels of recycling elsewhere in the world. Innovation is a difficult and lengthy process and through our MQP that became clear to us,” says Bargman. Additionally, he noted the MQP serves not only as the foundation on which to build a professional career, but also develops WPI students into high-level and sought-after job candidates.

students testing robot how the robot detects cardboard