When WPI was developing their project based program almost fifty years ago, the president visited Harvey Mudd and was also very impressed with their unique program. He noted their approach to interdisciplinary learning in the STEM world… None of these colleges are copies of the other. Each is a prototype which should keep evolving. We have moved beyond classroom lectures into a process where creativity is more directly applied.
WPI started developing their project based/interdisciplinary approach to STEM education back in 1968 when I was a student there. They even have an on-going summer institute to teach project education to faculty at other colleges and universities and have conducted extensive surveys reguarding their impact on thousanda of students They recognized that the science of learning is an on-going process and should not stagnate into a new standardized system copied be every other educational institution… They are currently trying to highlight how project elements can be integrated into the classroom experience. See https://www.wpi.edu/.
This National Academy of Engineering officially recoginzed these efoorts in 2016 and awarded the Gordon Prize to four WPI faculty menbers. In 2019, three Georgia Tech faculty also receive this prize for “problem-driven engineering education.” Many call such vehicles “projects.” This vehicle is not restricted to the STEM fields. In fact, project students are confronted by the interdisciplinary nature of problem solutions. These students must listen to each other to design a workable solution.
My favorit project format is called the “Interdisciplinary Qualifying Project” as it brings different majors out of their comfort zones as they “learn how to learn.” For this reason, WPI’s very exstensive overseas studies program is NOT a classroom exchange, but centers on actual project solutions, often in very different cultures… we are largely talking STEM majors here! Learning how to learn becomes personal. This is called motivating.
One could argue that these efforts are largely a re-birth of the mid-evil apprentice system with a modification fired by a recognition that the half-life of our modern “state-of-the-art” knowledge is very short, particularly in the STEM fields. (last I heard EE was 2.5 years… keep learning ladies!)
Scaling project education requires very strong corporate involvement. Their research needs to be interfaced with student research. Olin is working very hard at this. WPI has over 50 project centers in over thirty countries.