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Archive for the tag “Robotics Engineering”

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Take 2)

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (visited 7/28/19) (Click HERE for notes and pictures from my visit on 3/22/14)

WPI 2I love “looping back” to schools after a few years to remind myself of what’s going on there as well as seeing what’s new. The nice thing about WPI is their consistency – with a willingness to grow! One my original trip, 2 other counselors and I sat in on the regular info session and tour offered to all visiting families. This time, I was with a group of 26 international students learning about their college options. Much of what I heard about the curriculum and the “WPI Plan” was the same as 5 years ago, but I got a broader perspective of the international experience on campus as well as finding out about some new programs/majors being offered.

WPI quad 1Just about 11% of the 4500 undergrads are international citizens. An Iranian student helped give the information session, and students from Japan, Vietnam, and Kenya spoke on the student panel. They also showed a great YouTube video (produced entirely by international students) on the International Experience at WPI. “For such a small school, I love how much I can do and get the most out of the experiences.”

WPI maker space

One of the maker spaces on campus

Engineering remains the largest concentration/school on campus. They were the first in the US to offer Robotics Engineering and is only one of a few schools with Fire Protection Engineering.

Computer Related fields are the next largest concentration at WPI; these are housed within the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Data Science is the newest major (starting fall 2019); Interactive Media and Game Development and Bioinformatics are also relatively new. Students can earn a Concentration in AI as part of CompSci major. They offer multiple math tracks including Applied, Actuarial, Financial, and Industrial Mathematics, Math Sciences, and Math for Educators.

WPI lab bldgThe Business School focuses on the intersection of technology and business. In addition to generic business degree, students can major in Management Engineering or Management Information Systems.

There’s lots of academic and social support. Admissions is test-optional because they know that these exams don’t measure creativity and problem-solving ability. They want people who can work in a team and who are passionate about math and science since they’re taking those classes from the beginning.

WPI dorm 2WPI Plan: It’s what makes it unique; they implemented in 1971. It has 4 parts:

  • The Academic Calendar is divided into four 7-week terms; students take 3 classes each term. Summer is almost 4 months long, giving students more time for internships. Students only need 45 credits to graduate (equivalent to 15 terms) but most will complete 48 (16 terms) by graduation.
  • Non-punitive grading policy: students earn A, B, C, or NR (no record). They want students to feel more comfortable challenging themselves with classes they may not have taken otherwise. If they get a grade lower than a C in a class needed for the major, they need to retake it (“Who wants to drive over a bridge built by an engineer who didn’t pass some of their classes?”). There is also no + or – in the system so people don’t compete over points; it creates a more collaborative environment.
  • WPI mascot 3

    “Gompei the Goat,” WPI’s mascot

    They offer a Flexible Curriculum: “We Advise, You Decide.” There are no pre-requisites, only recommendations.

  • Project-based curriculum (it’s worth checking out the YouTube video Innovate Everything)
    1. 1st year: Great Problems Seminar: Students look at a world-wide problem (like water shortage) and try to solve it.
    2. 2nd year: Humanities and Arts: All students have to take 6 courses in a concentration within the Humanities or Arts, 1 of which is an immersive project.
    3. 3rd year: Interactive Qualifying Project. Students work with a community, NGO, or company. They come up with a project that will help the community such as making a hospital more accessible for hearing and visually impaired people.
    4. 4th year: Major Qualifying Project, equivalent to a capstone or thesis for the major. This is a 3-course equivalent (FT for 1 term or PT for 3 terms). All students get a $5000 global scholarship to help cover travel and project costs. They have 40+ project centers around the world.

WPI 7WPI boasts a retention rate of 95%, well over the national average. They take excellent care of students, starting with almost all freshman (97%) living on campus which is proven to help students succeed academically and socially. They have more than 200 clubs; the rep said, “We have plenty of more serious clubs like math club – there are 5 of those – but also a lot of fun things like Underwater Hockey and 2 cheese clubs, 1 for making and 1 for eating. Worcester itself is the 2nd largest city in New England and ranked 9th (by Forbes) Most Livable City with easy access to Boston, NYC, beaches, and Skiing. With 12 area colleges, there are over 38,000 area college students so local establishments cater to them well.

© 2019

Widener University (Take 2)

Widener Old Main 2

Old Main, the original building when this was Pennsylvania Military College

Widener University (visited 2/25/19)

(Click HERE to see notes and pictures from my previous visit on 11/20/15)

What makes students a good fit for Widener?

  • “We’re told by co-op employers that our students have grit and no sense of entitlement. There’s a drive that pushes them.”
  • “Kids come in with so much on their plate – but they keep going. They’re all passionate about something. They’re resourceful and innovative. They want to try new things and to connect.”
  • “We’re a smallish campus and a family style environment. People aren’t anonymous. You know the groundskeeper, the president, the person serving you in the dining hall, the student next to you in class.”
  • “We’re plugged in here. We’ll do wellness checks.”
Widener mascot

One of the Pride mascots (female, male, and cub)

“Student success is at the core of everything we do,” said an admissions rep. This ranges from a 3-year residency requirement (“data points say that students are more successful if they live on campus”) to experiential education “which is harder to find than you think!” Some students have never engaged in diverse environments, dealt with communities struggling with hunger insecurity, etc. They work with students to appreciate civic engagement for what it is and deal with it as career preparation. Students deal with privilege and power on a variety of levels.

Widener 1Widener uses their location to their advantage; some people worry about safety in that area, but “No one talks about all the rich things that happen in terms of service. All major cities have stuff. If you go to a rural campus, there are rural issues. If you go to an urban campus, there are urban issues. We talk to kids about being savvy about where you are. Because of all the lights, it’s like Yankee Stadium in the middle of a game. There are more than 100 cameras. There are tons of ways to keep campus safe.”

Widener hospitality cooking lab

One of the Hospitality lab/classrooms – the top slides back to expose stovetops

Widener students are 20% more likely to participate in research, internships, and high impact practices through Civic Engagement, hands-on education, Co-ops, and more. In the Philly region, Drexel and Widener are co-op powerhouses with two significant differences:

Widener tv studio 1

One of the student-run tv studios in the communications department

Although I had visited Widener several years earlier, I was glad to revisit and see many of the departments I hadn’t before; they did an amazing job getting us the academic facilities and talking to professors who were passionate and clearly care about the students. I can see why students do so well here! A professor told us that “one of our competitors on the accreditation team said, ‘We say we care; you guys really care’.”

“This is the place where you have dinner at the President’s House. You get that up close and personal. More than 1000 students have dinner there every year: she invites sports teams, Bonner’s Program, etc. The dogs come out and the pool is open.”

Widener computer forensics

One of the Computer Forensics labs

We asked the students on the panel, “Why should we send students here? What’s appealing?”

  • “During a revisitation day, two science professors sought me out. I’m 1 of 7 biochem
  • “It’s the only school in the area that goes to the European Simulation. It’s one of the most life changing things I’ve done.”
  • “Family and Growth. I’ve seen myself grow compared to my friends at other colleges. You can create your own legacy and leave your mark.”
  • “I run track and miss random classes for meets, but it’s easy to work with professors to make sure I keep up.”
  • “They’ll work with you to match you with internships because professors have connections. They have no problem helping out and linking students with their contacts.”
  • “I came for the accelerated PT program. I’ll starts grad classes in senior year to shave off a year of my graduate studies, but I keep my scholarship as a senior.”
Widener geology lab

A geology lab

With 3,000 full-time undergrads and 3,000 graduate students, Widener provides what many larger schools offer while giving students a smaller college feel and personal attention with an average of 25 students per class. “It’s a blessing and a curse because we’re put in with larger institutions, so we get hit with rankings.”

Student panelists said that their favorite classes were:

  • Genetics: “my research prof teaches it. She’s helped with med school, MCATs, shaping me as a person. This taught me resilience.”
  • “I don’t have a specific favorite, but I’ve taken 4 classes with one professor. He embodies the involvement faculty have =. He checks in with how I’m doing. He knows I ski.”
  • Constitutional Law: “The Prof engages without PowerPoints for 3 hours. I’m learning the same things as Villanova Law students.”
  • “I had one professor in fall of freshman year who helped me find my internship. We got close because I was always missing his class for meets so I was working a lot with him.”
  • Business Law: “I want to go into that. I took it with a professor who’s a lawyer. I learned things I could apply in the field.”
  • Environmental Engineering: “I had the professor for 3 classes and did research with her.”
Widener nursing 1

The nursing building

The largest major is nursing: about 200 of the incoming 750-800 freshmen declare that major. Overall, they have strong Health programs (especially PT) and are starting OTD and PA programs. They accepted 16 into next year’s PT accelerated 3+3 cohort: to be offered a spot, students need 570 math SAT (1200 composite) or 24 math ACT (24 composite). If they don’t meet that but are admissible to Widener, they’re offered a 4+3. PT students work in a pro-bono clinic and complete in-patient, out-patient, and 1 choice internship; some do sports, pediatrics, even abroad (currently in Belize or Italy; Costa Rica and China are potential future possibilities).

Widener library 1

The library

All majors can study abroad: “going abroad should not delay your education.” Students can also study away in the US. “There’s a diversity of options without even leaving the North America: HBCUs, sea grants, French-speaking in Quebec, Spanish speaking in PR.” Widener owns property in Costa Rica, often used for short-term abroad programs, research projects, etc.

Over 90% of students live on campus in a variety of options including gender-neutral. Housing is guaranteed all 4 years and required for 3 unless they live with family within 25 miles. All students can have cars; permits are $230/year. There are 2 nearby train stations (Chester and Swarthmore) and buses to get around town.

NCAA athletes (23 DIII teams) make up 25-30% of the freshman class. “Academics and graduating are the most important. That being said, we hate losing more than we love winning.” Just over half of the athletes made the honor roll, and athletes are the highest retaining cohort.

Widener has been named among the top 150 most affordable colleges (out of 1700 researched by LendEDU) for freshmen with financial need. The “Average Joe” gets about $26,000 in merit aid.

© 2019

 

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