Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY, November 2008

What do the church of the computer, mapping the Milky Way, fungus growing under your bed and the video games Guitar Hero and Spiderman 3 have in common?

They all began at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute or RPI.  RPI, or Rensselaer as it likes to be known, falls into the most competitive category (as defined by Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges).  The school is the country’s oldest polytechnic institute and boasts alumni on the cutting edge of innovative engineering, scientific, and technological advancements for nearly 200 years.  These include the inventors behind the Ferris wheel, the television, and Guitar Hero.

Our gut reaction to the tour and information session is that RPI is a true gem in our own backyard.  RPI is an innovative and diverse campus whose deep educational purpose is ingrained in all its programs.  As non- scientific focused people, we were inspired and a little bit incredulous of what focused and well-taught students can do in four years.  If you think science is the only thing happening think again!  Although science, technology, and engineering are the keystones of the academic experience, RPI requires students to apply their knowledge to everyday life. This could be in the form of a brand new video game inspired by studies in the game and arts simulation course or the growing of fungus in the Product Design Innovation program where “under the bed mold” is now a product referred to as “green insulation.”  

RPI is composed of five schools:  Engineering, Science (the two largest and most popular options), Management and Technology (soon to be Business) Architecture, and Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences.  Regardless of school enrollment, all students must complete 24 units within Humanities Arts and Social Sciences including intensive writing and speech classes.  The programs are experiential in nature.  Most courses include a lecture and either lab or studio component so that students can put the concepts taught in the lecture to work in an experiential setting.  Professors also use technology to get instant feedback from students to determine whether a concept is understood before moving on to a new topic.    

The  physical nature of the campus is continually evolving  with a state of the art theatre and performing arts facility as well as a new sports complex currently underway on the east side of campus.  The church of the computer is located in the center of campus and is a clear nod to the power of technology in all aspects of an RPI student’s academic, professional, and co-curricular life.  The physical space is as diverse as the student body.  Our ideas about RPI’s campus were dramatically changed after the walking tour.  The RPI campus is a cohesive marriage between state of the art facilities beautiful old brick buildings, green space and breathtaking views of downtown Troy and beyond. On a glorious fall day this campus will not disappoint, but beware RPI sits on a hill and there will be much aerobic exercise so remember to wear comfortable shoes!!  Visit Rennselaer virtually at www.rpi.edu