Rebuilding Communities: How The CDC Helped My IQP

Filed in From the Staff by on January 11, 2013

IQP was a culmination of new and eye-opening experiences, from project work to group adventures!


You’re about to travel for two months across continents, in a completely new working environment, with students outside of your usual courses and social circles, to address social and dynamic issues with your collective engineering backgrounds.

Good luck!

How do you thoughtfully prepare for an experience like this?  What resources and strategies do you put into place in order to make your project a success, both for your academic interests and those of the community being affected?


It was questions like this that put us to the test in Cape Town, South Africa, during B Term 2012.  I was a part of a team of five students, working together in a 500-person informal settlement called Mtshini Wam to help in the process called reblocking, which involves re-designing a community in such a way that roads and upgraded shack materials are instituted.  By organizing the settlement, bulk services could be brought into the homes of each shack, including water, sanitation, and electrical services.  In addition, this new community structure opened outlets of additional developments, such as sustainable lighting, gardening, and carpentry efforts.


No matter where we went, there was always a sign pointing toward home!

As amazing an experience as it was, I would have been at a loss for how to carry out the caliber of work we performed if it weren’t for the CDC’s sessions and resources I gained while on campus.  To name a few:

-practicing mock interviews helped me react quickly but appropriately to the difficult questions we were asked by community and Municipality leaders on site;

-using my professional writing skills acquired through resume, cover letter, and networking messages helped to communicate effectively across a partnership; and

-knowing how to leverage our team’s skills provided a channel for us to best help the community’s reblocking and development initiatives.

The team! from left to right, Steve, me, Rachel, Sarah, and Zach


Having this skill set going into the community work was a huge advantage, and my project partners were on the same level of understanding how to perform our work well.

My suggestion to all those planning to go abroad for WPI projects in the near future:  take the time to visit the CDC and figure out the skills you need to learn in your working environment to make it a success!

Until next time!  or as they say in Cape Town, sala kakuhle!


About the Author ()

Hey there! My name's Adam and I'm currently a senior at WPI majoring in Management Engineering, focus in Operations Management. On campus I'm involved in Greek Life, Undergraduate Admissions, and campus programming. My blog topics will be focused primarily on staying focused and realistic when it comes to career building, as well as personal improvements and confidence builders in knowing yourself and your skill set. If you have any suggestions for topics or improvements along the way, feel free to let me know at any point! Keep searching, Adam

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