Road Trip: Chicago's Illinois Institute of Technology

We toured some of Chicago's top schools and found out what it's like to attend them.

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If you visit IIT, don't expect to find a bustling main campus. Despite being only 3 miles south of the Loop, the Bronzeville campus can feel distant and a little barren. Except for a recently reopened bar and bowling alley, there are few entertainment options, and at 7,600 students, including 2,600 undergraduates, the school is small. Engineering and architecture are popular majors, and some students in those colleges say they don't care much for partying.

What does get them excited is technology. Few students reacted when a visitor broke the news that the administration was shutting down IIT's men's and women's basketball programs. But a question about an upcoming hybrid race-car competition got an enthusiastic response from a group of engineering students eager to explain the mechanical and electrical intricacies of building not one but two hybrid cars.

"This is a tech school," says Shreyas Dole, a senior who is double-majoring in mechanical and aerospace engineering. "You obviously have a lot of geeks here." Dole says the biggest and most anticipated social events are local area network parties. "Everyone brings their laptop to the ballroom in the student center, and we all play computer games together."

For many undergrads, team projects are the highlight of their experience at IIT; many of these teach engineers to speak to people outside of engineering. The school requires all students to complete at least two team projects before graduation. In 2003, a team of undergrads helped the school's next-door neighbor, the White Sox, develop a system that measures the distance of home runs. The contacts pay off:"There are companies now begging us to introduce our students to them, even in this economy," says Ali Emadi, a popular professor of engineering.

More About IIT

Plus factor: Wondering why so many of the buildings look similar? Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe drew up the master plan.
Undergrad enrollment, fall '08: 2,639
Est. annual cost, 2009-10: $39,060

Chicago Road Trip

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