AUA and WPI Students’ Efforts Reach Harvest Time
YEREVAN, Armenia — On May 11, 2020, as the spring semester wraps up, 24 students from the American University of Armenia (AUA) and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) presented the “fruits” of their laborious collaboration. Eight AUA students, who had spent seven weeks at WPI preparing for the Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP), had teamed up with 16 WPI students online in the second half of the exchange program to implement projects across various sectors of the Armenian society. The exchange is part of a partnership between AUA and WPI which brings students and faculty from both universities together to help solve the problems that our society faces, both here in Armenia and worldwide, through interdisciplinary approaches.
“The presentations were diverse and insightful, and reflected great team chemistry and passionate cooperation. Listening to them, you wouldn’t think that the groups conducted their team effort remotely and online. It was a very impressive demonstration by the WPI and AUA students,” observed Dr. Aram Hajian, dean of AUA’s Akian College of Science and Engineering (CSE).
Conditioned by the COVID-19 outbreak, the six teams worked on their projects remotely. Each presented their projects that aimed to improve certain infrastructure and facilities in Armenia. Thus, the projects touched upon cataloging resources for poverty reduction in Armenia; improving the recognition of Junior Achievement of Armenia; creating a marketing strategy for the recovery of tourism in Armenia; maximizing the benefits of the mobile eye hospital; improving sanitation and student health in schools; and matching the resources in the Diaspora to Armenia’s needs.
Norayr Ben-Ohanian, AUA adjunct lecturer and faculty supervisor, who has been teaching and mentoring the students for the last couple of months, reflected on the experience: “It has been a great pleasure working with the students from AUA and WPI throughout this semester. They have been working hard as teams with close coordination and engagement with the sponsors remotely through very challenging times. I would like to take this opportunity to commend the students on the resilience that they have shown to overcome these challenges and produce high-quality work which they presented.”
The project sponsors — World Vision Armenia, Junior Achievement of Armenia, Tourism Committee of the Republic of Armenia, Armenian EyeCare Project, My Step Foundation, and the Armenian General Benevolent Union of Armenia — had the opportunity to follow the presentations remotely and get acquainted with the outcomes of all six projects.
“This past semester has not been what we expected or wanted, however, the students from AUA and WPI were still able to produce excellent work that will be of use to their sponsors. I have been impressed by their attitude in this unusual situation, and I was very happy to see the sponsors attend the virtual presentations and express how much they enjoyed working with the teams,” noted Dr. Aaron Sakulich, WPI associate professor and faculty supervisor.
One of the initiators of the Armenia IQP, Prof. Michael Aghajanian, WPI adjunct instructor and director of the WPI Armenia Project Center, has scrupulously followed the progress of the teams. “I am very impressed with the results from each of the six teams. The sponsors have reached out to me to express their appreciation for the important work the students accomplished,” he said. “In addition to the traditional learning outcomes we expect from these projects, I am sure that these students learned some very important life lessons by overcoming the hurdles associated with the COVID-19 pandemic to successfully complete their projects.”
As a result of their collaborative effort and strong determination, the teams managed to overcome the challenges of online communication and came up with practical solutions to meet their project objectives.
Founded in 1991, the American University of Armenia (AUA) is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia, affiliated with the University of California, and accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission in the United States. AUA provides local and international students with Western-style education through top-quality undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs, promotes research and innovation, encourages civic engagement and community service, and fosters democratic values.