- Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science at WPI
Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science at WPI Address 85 Prescott Street
Coordinates Information Type Public Magnet Established 1992 Director Michael Barney Grades 11 - 12 Number of students approx. 100 Color(s) maroonand gray Website massacademy.org
Located in Worcester, Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science at WPI (Mass Academy/MAMS/MAMAS) was founded in 1992 by the Massachusetts State Legislature as a public magnet school to serve academically advanced youth in grades eleven and twelve in math, science, and technology.
The school emphasizes math and science within a comprehensive, interactive program. The rigor of the junior year classes exceeds high school honors and AP, with more than 1100 hours of instruction. Seniors complete a year of college, taking the same classes as other students at WPI. WPI is a nationally ranked engineering school, thus making the Academy the only public school in Massachusetts whose students attend a university full time as seniors in high school. The Academy was originally located in WPI's library, but is now located nearby at 85 Prescott Street close to the WPI bioengineering complex.
The Academy is a collaborative effort among the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and the high schools of Massachusetts. In addition to passing all classes, the Academy also requires that all students complete 56 hours of community service per year.
Students who want to attend the Academy must apply in the sophomore year of high school, although some exceptions have been made. For example, an occasional freshmen has entered the Academy in what would have been his/her sophomore year at their "sending" school. Othertimes, high school juniors have elected to repeat their eleventh grade at the Academy.
The admissions process is very selective. Grades and teacher recommendations serve as the primary indicators of student ability and motivation. A personal essay and a diagnostic test also provide important information for the admissions committee.
The Academy encourages students who wish to attend to visit the school for a day. These visitors, called "shadows," follow a host student so as to experience a typical day.
Junior year students attend classes from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. except on Wednesdays when the school day runs from 8 a.m. until 12 p.m.. These mandatory classes include Mathematical Modeling, Physics, Humanities, Computer Science, STEM (Science Technology Engineering And Math), Science and Technical Writing, and Foreign Language. STEM I is a class in which students take on an original research investigation that makes some contribution in that field. Students can either conduct science, math or engineering projects. This class culminates with a science fair in February. STEM II is an engineering class in which students work in three and four person teams to develop a piece of assistive technology. These projects are designed with a specific client in mind, usually a young student with a physical handicap. The foreign language classes are also different from most schools. In addition to grammar and translation, the class period consists of making a movie completely in either Spanish or French, singing songs written in foreign language, and discussion in the target language. Built into the school week are two 1.5 hour elective periods, where students can take a class of their choosing. The electives offered each term differ, but have included social dancing, cooking, machine shop, bowling, film appreciation, water colors, photography, advanced mathematics, mock trial, FIRST Robotics, kickboxing, puzzles, German, and drama.
The faculty at the Academy consist of Master Teachers and Visiting Scholars. Master Teachers are faculty who return every year, whereas Visiting Scholars typically come with backgrounds in various fields outside education, and develop their teaching skills over the course of a year or two.
Junior year is very homework intensive and many students find themselves working in the early hours of the morning completing assignments. However, this is typically due to a combination of a heavy workload and procrastination. Thus, students must individually learn the skills of time management.
"C-term", running from early January to the middle of March, is generally agreed to be by far the most difficult. The "STEM I" projects (formerly STREAM A for Science Technology Research Engineering and Mathematics, and before that, RS for Research Seminar) and papers must be completed in this time span - these involve individual research into areas not typically studied by high-school students, such as heuristics and mechanical design.
During their senior year, students take on a full-time course load at WPI. There is no tuition charged to the student. Each term students take one math class, one science class, and one humanities class for a total of twelve courses in 4 terms. In addition, by the end of senior year, each student must complete a senior independent study project.
Mass Academy has sent students to Harvard University, Brown University, Yale University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, McGill University, the University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth College, the California Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University and many other top schools since its inception in 1992. Many schools accept all WPI credits, allowing Mass Academy students to graduate a year early.
Benefits from Association with WPI
Because of the association with WPI, Mass Academy students enjoy many amenities offered by WPI. Students at Mass Academy have access to much of what WPI offers. The student center, for example, is a prized social place for Academy students. In the classroom, professors report that Mass Academy seniors tend to be highly engaged class participants and do very well academically.
Mass Academy students are issued IDs that can be used as a regular WPI ID to gain access to various WPI facilities including the gym, library, bowling alley, computer labs, and courts.
Mass Academy students, however, are prohibited from joining any sport teams, varsity or club, at WPI. Because, as high school students, NCAA rules make them ineligible for college teams. Students are also prohibited from entering the dormitories at WPI. Any student found in a dormitory will face harsh consequences, which could ultimately lead to an expulsion from the Academy.
Most students graduating from Mass Academy will meet freshmen math requirements in college since three or more terms of calculus is required of everyone. Many students will be eligible to graduate a year early from college because of the year at WPI. Almost all colleges accept credits from WPI, which is ranked 64 on US Newsweek top 100 Universities in the nation.
Mass Academy students have won numerous awards at the state, regional, national, and international levels. Each year at least 10 or 11 Mass Academy students achieve honorable mention, thirds, seconds and firsts at the Massachusetts State Science Fair. Three have won the prestigious Fish and Richardson Award. Students have also performed well on the annual Math Modeling competition, with some achieving regional outstanding.
While the school is known for a strong math and science program, students who attend the school are also very talented in the humanities. Many students are accomplished musicians with some achieving state wide recognition. Some students have won recognition in national writing contests. The Academy also finished strong the Massachusetts Envirothon competition for the past several years.
A junior who fails the first term may be asked to return to his/her sending school before it is too late so as to avoid damaging the student's high school transcript. The reason for this is that students who do not pass the first term are unlikely to pass the proceeding terms.
Any senior who fails a class during the first term of WPI classes will be asked to return to his/her sending school. A single failure in any other term requires a summer make-up course while two or more failures in any other term leads to a return to the sending school. This is so that students who are unable to handle the college courses are still able to graduate at their sending schools.
Only one student has ever faced disciplinary expulsion from the academy. This student had been engaging in illegal computer hacking activities involving the WPI network.
The Mass Academy Reunion
The academy holds an annual reunion for its alumni during the winter break period, typically late December or early January. The academy reunion is unique in that all of the graduated classes attend. The academy is able to accommodate everyone since there have been only been fourteen graduating classes each of approximately 40 students. The reunion was not held for several years following the death of Pauline LaMarche (2004), the academy's second principal and original organizer of the event. The tradition has resumed, however, with the reunion held on December 30, 2006.
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