Worcester Polytechnic Institute

From Academic Kids

Template:Infobox American Universities

For other "Worcester Colleges," see Worcester College (disambiguation).

Located in Worcester, Massachusetts, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI, informally: "Worcester Tech") was founded in 1865 as the Worcester County Free Institute of Industrial Science by John Boynton, Ichabod Washburn, and Stephen Salisbury II (and Emory Washburn, George Frisbee Hoar, Phillip Moen, Seth Sweetser, David Whitcomb, and Charles O. Thompson).

Today a science and engineering university, WPI has an enrollment of over 2,700 undergraduate students and over 1,000 full- and part-time graduate students.


Academic system

WPI's project-based curriculum makes it unique by requiring undergraduate students to complete a Sufficiency in the Liberal Arts, an Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP) to study the social effects of technology with students from other disciplines, and a Major Qualifying Project (MQP) within their own discipline. These projects are based on WPI's founding principle of theory alongside practice.

Sufficiency in the Liberal Arts

To provide intellectual breadth and a better understanding of themselves, their cultures and their heritage, every student must complete a Sufficiency Project, most often in the Humanities and Arts. Students majoring in a scientific or engineering field or in business management or the social sciences must fulfill this requirement in a humanities and arts area while students majoring in a humanities field must complete this project in an engineering field. Sufficiency projects generally consist of five thematically related courses concluded with an independent research project or, in the case of languages, an additional course.

Interactive Qualifying Project

To provide an understanding of the priorities of other sectors of society, develop the ability to communicate effectively with disparate groups, organize and derive solutions to complex problems, and gain an awareness of the interrelationships between technology and people, every student must complete an Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP). Consisting of independent study, often in a team environment, and equating to three courses in terms of work and credit, it may be performed on-campus or at one of many global project centers.

An IQP shall address a topic relating science and/or technology to society. In this context, both "society" and "technology" should be construed as broadly as possible. Technology refers to the application of rational and efficient principles to a body of knowledge or to the control of space, matter and/or human beings. Thus, the IQP encompasses not only techniques of production embodied in tools and machines, but also advances in methods of social and economic organization, in managerial techniques, and in methods of analysis in science, mathematics, and engineering. Society refers not only to a grouping of individuals but also to the culture, values, laws, customs, and institutions shared by these individuals.

Major Qualifying Project

To provide a capstone experience in the professional discipline, to develop creativity, instill self-confidence and enhance the ability to communicate ideas and synthesize fundamental concepts, every student must complete a Major Qualifying Project (MQP). This consists of an independent team-oriented project equivalent in credit to three courses of work. It may be performed on-campus or at one of several project centers around the globe.

Clubs and Organizations

The students of WPI have created various student clubs and run many student organizations.

Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science at WPI

WPI participates in a collaborative effort with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the high schools of Massachusetts in the Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science at WPI.

Mass Academy is an 11th and 12th grade public high school for 100 academically accelerated youths. Juniors receive advanced high school classes at the academy building, with seniors taking the WPI freshman curriculum at the university.

The program emphasizes math and science within a comprehensive, interactive program and is the only public school in Massachusetts whose students attend a university fulltime as seniors in high school.

Notable alumni

WPI's best-known alumnus is Robert Goddard, who graduated in 1908 and is widely regarded as the Father of Modern Rocketry. Another successful graduate is Robert Stempel, inventor of the catalytic converter and former Chairman and CEO of General Motors. A third important alumni is Harold S Black who revolutionized electronics by inventing negative feedback in 1921. WPI is also known for its famous drop-outs. Dean Kamen, who left the school without finishing his degree, invented the first portable insulin pump and the Segway Human Transporter. Atwater Kent, who dropped out twice in the 1890s, went on to found the Atwater Kent Manufacturing Company which was the world's leading producer of radios in the late 1920s. In Japan, a famous alumnus is Kotaro Shimomura, chemical engineer. After graduating, he became president of Doshisha University and Osaka Gas Co., Ltd.


Missing image
The WPI logo

  • The term "gweep," meaning one who hacks on a computer at night, originated at WPI.
  • Many of the members of the well-established fanfiction-writing group Eyrie Productions (http://www.eyrie-productions.com) are or were students at WPI, and much of their writing is littered with WPI references.
  • WPI has a secret honor society known as the Skull.
  • Usenet flaming is said to have originated at WPI in arguments over computer time. WPI currently maintains wpi.flame.
  • Male-only school until 1968. The current male:female ratio is approximately 3:1.
  • Its newspaper, Tech News, changed its name to Newspeak in the 1970's, then changed its name back to Tech News in 2000.
  • Since 1982, WPI has offered a summer-program for high school science & engineering students named Frontiers.
  • The WPI lexicon currently consists of over 700 acronyms which are catalogued by an alum from the Class of 2005.

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