WPI’s Global STEM Education Initiative leverages the university’s expertise and resources to help other countries and underserved schools in the United States provide high-quality, accessible K-12 STEM education the world needs now.Read Story
Letter From the Interim President
This university is experiencing some incredible developments that won’t just make WPI stronger; they will also make the world better.
This was stunningly evident in Geneva, Switzerland, in October 2022, when WPI and DEKA Research & Development Corp.—established and led by Dean Kamen ’73, one of the nation’s most prolific inventors and the founder of FIRST and FIRST Global robotics competitions—introduced the game-changingly affordable and easy-to-build XRP (Experiential Robotics Platform) robots. Over the next few days, beta versions of the robot were given to the 185 teams of high-school-aged roboticists from 180 nations who were competing at the 2022 FIRST Global Challenge.
The experience was unforgettable due to a profound mixture of inspiration, excitement, pride, and humility. The international diversity within the Palexpo arena showed itself through different languages and cultures. But those differences were small when compared to the overwhelming spirit of collaboration and support shown by the nearly 2,000 students, mentors, teachers, and guests who were helping and cheering on new friends from other countries, sometimes from nations often at odds with one another. It was also humbling and heartening to learn about the teachers and mentors who had spent their time—and often their own resources—to engage kids in robotics in order to make STEM less intimidating because they know it will help create a better future for their students, communities, and the world.
It was also humbling and heartening to learn about the teachers and mentors who had spent their time—and often their own resources—to engage kids in robotics in order to make STEM less intimidating.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget how precious access to education and teaching tools is in other parts of the world, but Geneva provided some indelible reminders. Upon receiving their XRP and learning that these robots will cost less than $50, will be just as programmable as far more expensive robots, and will come with built-in educational and software support, some of the teachers and mentors actually wept. They immediately saw the potential and told us they needed to get more of these robots—and fast. Within three days it was clear the demand would surpass a million units. Now we are busy working with DEKA and others to make this vision a reality.
As part of a larger global STEM education initiative, WPI will support these teams and work in new and profound ways to leverage WPI’s expertise to help communities around the world. Although these are early days, we are already seeing exciting signs of progress and can look forward to great developments on that front.
Then, in November, the Board of Trustees named Grace Wang as our 17th president. Hundreds of community members helped define what was most needed in WPI’s next leader, and a dedicated team of trustees, administrators, faculty, staff, and students reviewed more than a hundred candidates and interviewed an impressive slate of national contenders. Their efforts paid off. Grace is an accomplished and impressive academic, researcher, and professional—and a warm and charismatic person. When she takes up the mantle on April 3, 2023, she will make a wonderful leader and a tremendous addition to our community.
During the course of our conversations, it has become increasingly clear that Grace and I share not only many similarities in our professional backgrounds, but also a common vision for the future. I look forward to working with her, and I’m certain you will share those sentiments when you have the chance to get to know her.