Scientific theory and social issues collide on the campus of Worcester Polytechnic Institute — and that's exactly what this school in Worcester, Massachusetts, wants for its roughly 5,200 undergraduate students.

All undergrads start their time at WPI in the Great Problems Seminar, a collection of courses aimed at connecting scientific or technological skills with challenges related to health, energy, transportation or housing. Then, when students become upperclassmen, they combine theory with practice through two major projects. During junior year, for example, small teams of students work with a faculty member to research a specific problem and design a solution.

These projects take place in Worcester and at the school's 50-plus project centers located in 31 countries around the world. One such project was in Cape Town, South Africa, where students recently assisted in implementing alternative building technologies for the Department of Human Settlements.

Also unique at WPI are the grading system and term schedule. There are no D or F grades; students simply don't receive credit for anything below a C. And there are four seven-week terms instead of two semesters.

Academics are demanding, but students still find time to relax. WPI has over 235 clubs and organizations to choose from. Other popular events include movie nights every Saturday and Sunday in Perreault Auditorium and Trivia Tuesdays at the Goat’s Head restaurant.