Preface: How I Stumbled Into Fire Protection Engineering is a series of blog posts tracing the roots of my current career. From stumbling upon fire protection as a college student through starting Harrington Group as an entrepreneur, I hope you enjoy the story of my journey into Fire Protection Engineering. I would also like to encourage you to post comments of the moments in which you realized your calling. Thank you for reading and sharing.

This is a story of my stumbling into the field of fire protection engineering while I was in school. In 1973, I started engineering school at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). At the time, WPI was experimenting with a new way of teaching engineers, called the “WPI Plan”. The goal of the Plan was to give engineers a better mix of theory and practice so that when they graduated, an engineer with a BS degree, would be more immediately valuable to employers. I was on track for an electrical engineering degree.

Amongst the requirements of the Plan, there was a mandatory step during Sophomore year called the IQP, interactive qualifying project. The IQP required that it be done in collaboration with an outside organization and unrelated to your major.

A good friend and I were searching for an IQP we could team up on. We were walking down a hallway covered on both sides with fliers of abstracts for IQPs. By the dead-end of the corridor, we had been through nearly all of the abstracts and didn’t see a single project that was intriguing. The last flier we saw involved fire protection engineering. A project to be done in collaboration with the Worcester Fire Department. It caught our attention and we decided to give it a shot.

It was around that time, I became disillusioned with electrical engineering, primarily because it was too abstract for me. More importantly, it was boring. I needed something more tangible and connected to the real world.

By Jeff Harrington, CEO and Founder of Harrington Group, Inc.