President’s IQP Awards Event Recognizes Student Teams Who Overcame Pandemic Challenges | News


The Qualifying Interactive Project (IQP) is one of the greatest achievements of a WPI student and a hallmark of the project-based learning program. But in the 2020-2021 academic year, the PQIs looked a little different. Students not only had to overcome academic challenges – finding a way to work as a team across disciplines, tackling real-world issues globally and locally – but, due to pandemic restrictions, they also had to find a way to work with partners and sponsors around the world. world, without being able to physically travel to distant places.

The 2020-2021 PIQs have been redesigned and largely hybrid – a mix of in-person and virtual activities that have seen students and advisors adjust their travel plans and project work. Students have either gone remote, using Zoom, WhatsApp, SMS and email to work with collaborators around the world, or they have stayed local in the Worcester area, helping to impact the lives of members of the community in their own backyard.

The President’s IQP Awards event followed the same mode, as educational advisors, parents and peers gathered in the Odeum and on Zoom and YouTube on Friday, January 28, 2022, to see the IQP teams showcase their work at a panel of judges that included President Laurie Leshin. Of the hundreds of teams that completed the IQPs, five were selected as finalists for the awards, an annual recognition given to teams whose IQP work is deemed exceptional in its focus on science, technology and society.


For students working with international sponsors and partners, adjusting to pandemic restrictions meant working with people they had never met in person and in countries they may never have. visited. The difference in time zones for gathering for meetings – and working around COVID issues and restrictions affecting their sponsors’ home countries – also posed challenges. Traveling a few kilometers was no small feat for the students either. For teams that stayed close to home to conduct their projects in person, the Coronavirus Emergency Response Team (CERT) still had to approve their off-campus travel and work plans.


Projects this year included creating a healing garden in Worcester, helping launch a competitive youth robotics team in Namibia, co-designing a sustainable sanitation system in Ghana and seeking opportunities to restore and preserve wetlands in New Zealand.

Therapeutic Gardening: Advancing a Healing Garden Program and Partnership

Matthew Adams, Christopher Davenport, Mairead O’Neill and Ciara Young

Advisors: Scott Jiusto, Gbetonmasse Somasse

Sponsor: Healing Garden Institute

(Cape Town, South Africa Project Center was pivoted to a project in Worcester, Mass.)

Launch of a competitive robotics team for physically active young people

Augustine Asumadu, Devan Blechinger-Slocum, Margaret Gunville, Sarah MacDonald

Advisors: Alexander Smith, Nancy Burnham

Sponsor: Physically Active Youth – Windhoek, Namibia Project Center; STEM Education Project Center

Sanitation Akyem Dwenase

Elaine Chen, Ruchita Choksey, Danielle Upton, Casey Willis

Advisor: Rob Krueger

Ghana Project Center: Development Design Lab

The role of wetlands in the Ruamahanga watershed

Caroline Dalton, Daniel Dietrich, Meng Lian, Brooklynn Paris

Advisors: Fred Looft, Ingrid Shockey

Sponsor: Rawiri Smith, Ian Gunn

Wellington Project Centre, New Zealand

Mobile Farm Stand: a vehicle for education

Minh Anh Kieu, Noah Brennick, Sophia Cheng, Darius Luo

Advisor: Derren Rosbach

Sponsor: Turn Back Time – Farm Stay Project Center


First place was awarded to Therapeutic Gardening: Advancing a Healing Garden Program and Partnership. The judges were impressed with the team’s focus on helping vulnerable populations in WPI’s own backyard, as well as its design process, ability to find a suitable local partner in Seven Hills ASPiREand in the way the students presented their proposal to Seven Hills.

The five finalist teams now have the opportunity to present their work to an even wider audience, discussing their projects on the “Have you Herd?


Four teams received honorable mention, an above-average number and further testament to the strength of this year’s projects and the students’ ability to produce thoughtful, well-designed work despite the disruption caused by the pandemic. Honorable mentions went to Using Volunteers to Save Văcărești Wetlands, Strengthening ACE outreach and communication with African families, Exploring governance strategies to restore New Zealand’s biological heritageand Improving the visitor experience along the trails of Sibiu County.


President Laurie Leshin

Leshin is the 16 of WPIand president and the first woman to lead the university. Under his leadership, the university gradually built its reputation as a world leader in project-based learning and was recognized by the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Rankings for its best balance between excellence in teaching and revolutionary research.

Patty Eppinger

Eppinger is a community volunteer and philanthropist, who has dedicated her time to organizations focused on education, youth and equity. She is also a member of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education, founder of the Worcester Education Collaborative and co-chaired A city a library, a public-private initiative to extend library services to Worcester. She is the proud mother of Class of 2024 member Lauren Eppinger.

Navjot Singh

Singh is a senior partner in the Boston office of McKinsey and is a leader in life sciences, strategy and corporate finance practices, with a focus on innovation. He brings deep business expertise in strategy, innovation, operations, business development and risk management. He is also an expert in Six Sigma methodologies for product development and process design, and has been awarded 20 patents for his work in these areas.

Jillian McLeod

McLeod is an associate professor of mathematics at the United States Coast Guard Academy, where she also chairs the Equity Taskforce. She is currently a Fellow of the American Council on Education, which allowed her to spend the fall semester at WPI in leadership development, under the mentorship of President Leshin.

Mimi Sheller

Sheller is the first Dean of The Global School at WPI. Prior to joining WPI, she headed the sociology department at Drexel University, where she founded the Center for Mobilities Research and Policy. She is also founding co-editor of the journal Mobilities and former president of the International Association for the History of Transport, Traffic and Mobility. She has also consulted for companies and public entities such as the World Bank, the National Science Foundation and the Social Science Research Council and is the author and co-editor of 15 books and more than 120 articles.


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