Worcester Polytechnic Institute Joins The White House “Nation of Makers” Initiative

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WPI responds to President Obama’s call to develop a workforce oriented towards innovation, invention, design and manufacturing.

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Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) was one of 70 universities and colleges nationwide to respond to President Barack Obama’s June 2014 call for a “Nation of Makers”—an initiative to develop a workforce oriented towards innovation, invention, design and manufacturing.

The specific education component of President Obama’s push is known as the “MakeSchools Alliance.” This initiative asks institutions of higher education—and others—to increase efforts to create a “maker culture” on college campuses. This includes increasing efforts to provide students with the tools they need, such as spaces, projects, and mentors, in order to engage students in hands-on making activities and boost their interest and persistence in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Earlier this week, on the anniversary of the President’s call, the White House released the State of Making in Higher Education, an analysis of the nation’s institutional perspectives on and support for the Maker Movement. The report, which was prepared by a consortium of schools, including WPI, highlights the approaches to education, community engagement and campus resources being explored on American campuses; it also provides recommendations and next step guidance for the community around higher education.

In addition to creating more maker space on campus, WPI will leverage its considerable strength in project-based learning in STEM fields.

“As a member of the MakeSchools Alliance, WPI is committed to nurturing this Maker culture and ensuring that young people across the country have access to the facilities, programs, and tools that will allow them to be engaged in some extraordinary projects,” wrote WPI President Laurie A. Leshin in a letter to President Obama(pg. 85). “As one visible sign of our commitment, WPI is investing in critical Makerspaces as we plan to build a state-of-the-art facility on campus that will focus on collaborative learning and transformative projects. The innovation studio will have a lasting impact on generations of incoming WPI students and on our campus.”

In her letter to President Obama, Leshin also pointed out WPI’s 40-year history of innovative project-based learning, and highlighted recent groundbreaking projects that have had a direct impact on practical challenges facing communities across the globe.

“Maker culture at WPI is defined by an intellectual curiosity, a passion to master interdisciplinary skills, and the tenacity to follow through to the end,” said Leshin. “WPI makers come from a variety of backgrounds with different experiences and have the goal to acquire and refine skills to encourage positive change around the world. The WPI maker culture is a melting pot of disciplines and the culture flourishes at this intersection of various fields. WPI makers are curious, collaborative, and creative in pursuing solutions to hard problems with societal impact.”

Read more about how WPI fosters a maker culture on campus and throughout our community of students, faculty and partners. A list of other institutions involved, and details on their efforts, is available here.

President Obama also proclaimed June 12-18 the National Week of Making, which coincides with a National Maker Faire in Washington DC June 12-13, organized by a broad range of national and local organizations on the University of DC campus. WPI Robotics Engineering Program participated in the Maker Faire, displaying a variety of custom-designed and -built projects and earning an Editor’s Choice Blue Ribbon. Read the White House Fact Sheet.

About Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1865 in Worcester, Mass., WPI is one of the nation’s first engineering and technology universities. Its 14 academic departments offer more than 50 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science, engineering, technology, business, the social sciences, and the humanities and arts, leading to bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. WPI's talented faculty work with students on interdisciplinary research that seeks solutions to important and socially relevant problems in fields as diverse as the life sciences and bioengineering, energy, information security, materials processing, and robotics. Students also have the opportunity to make a difference to communities and organizations around the world through the university's innovative Global Projects Program. There are more than 40 WPI project centers throughout the Americas, Africa, Asia-Pacific, and Europe.

Media Contact:
Alison Duffy - 508/831-6656, amduffy(at)wpi(dot)edu

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