WPI’s Global Perspective Program
The Cape Town Project Centre (CPTC) is part of WPI’s Global Perspectives Program offering project opportunities in two dozen centers around the world. Through the CTPC, students may complete their third-year interdisciplinary project called the “Interactive Qualifying Project” (IQP), addressing a real problem related to technology, society, and human needs, or their fourth year “Major Qualifying Project” (MQP) in their main field of study. The Centre also provides faculty and other researchers a vehicle for investigating sustainability dynamics related to informal settlements.
Our work in Cape Town engages students in the hopes and challenges of fostering sustainable development in Africa that this city so dramatically symbolizes. On the one hand, Cape Town is an exciting, cosmopolitan, culturally diverse and vibrant city of astonishing natural beauty that has flourished since 1994 when South Africa achieved its inspirational transition to democracy from a society long dominated by colonialism and racial apartheid. On the other hand, beyond its prosperous urban core and the area’s natural wonders, the legacy of apartheid and uneven development remains starkly evident in the impoverished communities where most city residents live, many in improvised shacks in informal settlements that lack adequate sanitation, employment, health, education, and other basic necessities. We work in these communities in close collaboration with community groups and the City of Cape Town, non-governmental organizations, businesses and others who identify project topics and support our students in their investigations. Each year in October, following two months of preparation on-campus, 24 WPI students, at their own expense, travel to Cape Town for two months of field-based project work under the advisement of two WPI faculty members. Their efforts, in conjunction also with local project sponsors, have addressed issues such as planning for roads, housing and community centres in Monwabisi Park, managing flood risk hazards, promoting local economic development, and fostering effective communication among social actors operating from diverse cultural, social, and economic contexts. Faculty research initiatives are also represented in these pages.