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September 26, 2023

WPI to advise National Science Foundation on fire protection with $450K grant

Photo | Grant Welker Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester

The National Science Foundation has added Worcester Polytechnic Institute to its Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center, bringing the university on to its collaborative effort between universities and industry leaders to better understand, prevent, and respond to wildfires.

The addition of WPI to the center comes with a $450,000 grant to the university over three years, according to a Monday announcement from WPI. It will partner with San Jose State University in California, where the center was launched, to research new fire detection methods, robotics solutions for first responder safety, and wildfire suppression systems.

“We have seen far too often the heartbreak and destruction caused by wildfires,” WPI president Grace Wang said in the announcement. “This partnership will amplify critical groundbreaking research that has the potential to reshape our understanding, prediction, and management of these devastating events – and, ultimately, save lives.”

Albert Simeoni, WPI fire protection engineering professor and department head, will serve as principal investigator at the WPI-based research hub. His team’s research will focus on human safety and community resilience, fire spread through vegetation, and building the STEM workforce to be equipped to handle wildfires. 

“The solutions to our current wildfire issues are going to require creative thinking across multiple sectors and disciplines,” Kendra McLauchlan, program officer at the NSF and chair of the initiative, said in the announcement. “This is exactly the approach taken by WIRC, and the new site at WPI adds some really exciting capacity. We are looking forward to the innovations this industry-university partnership is able to achieve.”

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