Despite the fact that over 80% of WPI students are in the STEM fields, the IQP focuses on using social science techniques to understand the impact of science and technology on concerned stakeholders – Technology is only a minor focus of the project. The implementation of this social-science based requirement had its roots in the death of post-war utopianism and recognizes that the consequences of STEM students receiving a narrowly-defined, discipline-specific education can be catastrophic. Despite incredible scientific and technological breakthroughs after the Second World War, most of the world population saw little improvement in their lives, due primarily to the fact that engineers and policymakers were investing little time in understanding the needs of stakeholders. Through the IQP, WPI aims to enable students to recognize that technology does not exist in a vacuum; only by understanding the human context in which technology is being implemented can specific goals be achieved.

At the Iceland Project Center, interdisciplinary student teams partner with non-academic project sponsors, who identify a topic and provide access to necessary resources, while faculty members provide guidance on how to identify relevant stakeholders, gather data regarding the risks and benefits that a particular solution may pose to those stakeholders, and make decisions based on that data.