August 11, 2011

Imagine spending five weeks of the summer living in Europe, experiencing a new culture, and learning innovative manufacturing and technology practices—all while earning course credit. For 13 LSU engineering students, this became a reality.  

For the second consecutive summer, LSU’s Academic Programs Abroad offered students majoring in engineering the opportunity to participate in Encountering Engineering in Europe, or E3. The program allows students to gain a global perspective of engineering by studying in Germany.

Led by Paige Davis, assistant STEP (STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics - Talent Expansion Program) coordinator and instructor in the Department of Construction Management and Industrial Engineering (CMIE), E3 offers a five-week immersion into German culture, from its food and language to its automotive and technology industries. 

“I want the students to walk away with a much better understanding of technology and robotics … sustainability and green manufacturing,” said Davis. “But more than that, I really want them to walk away with their eyes wide open to the world that we live in and the diversity of the people. We don’t all think the same, but we can all work together. We can communicate with one another and be better for it.” 

LSU’s E3 was hosted in Bavaria, the southernmost German state. Students spent two weeks in Nuremberg, the cultural and industrial center of northern Bavaria; one week in Berlin; and two weeks in Brannenburg, a small town in the Alps. Excursions in all three locations complemented the German and engineering classes taught on-site by LSU faculty.

“When I found out there was a study abroad program designed for engineers, it seemed like the perfect fit for me,” said Dana Trahan, junior, mechanical engineering. “It is an especially good program for mechanical engineers because of all of the factories and production lines we visited.”

This summer, E3 participants toured BMW and Volkswagen plants, Siemens Research Facility, the Deutsches Museum of Technology, Kuka Robotics and Ohm University, just to name a few.

“We would tour a facility and then have, what I called, a debriefing session, where we’d sit down, discuss what we saw, take notes and compare it to something else we had seen,” Davis said. “It would be informal class time.”

For Trahan and civil engineering senior, Ransom Pipes, the factory tours were among their favorite activities. The tours allowed students to experience engineering technology directly, painting a more vivid picture of real-world engineering practices and exposing the students to new areas of the field. 

“The knowledge I gained from the program would not be possible to learn back in a classroom,” said Pipes.“One of my favorite television shows is “How It's Made.” The factory tours were like I stepped into the TV show.”

Trahan was most impressed with the factories’ robotics applications. Although she had never considered working in the field before, after her E3 excursions, Trahan is thinking of pursuing robotics-related work when she graduates.

“It was exciting to see all of the things I learn about in class being put to use in the field,” she said. “Our trips really inspired me to keep working hard in school so that one day I can be the engineer doing the designing and testing.”

Like Trahan, Robert Owens, a graduate student in engineering sciences, was impressed with the factories’ high level of automation and logistics. Owens described the E3 trip as “mind blowing” and hailed the level of engineering, particularly in the industrial sector, as far surpassing anything he had ever witnessed. 

Davis also ensured that the students integrated communication and technology into their coursework as much as possible. They created websites on various technologies, robot efficiency and sustainability, as well as submitted daily blog and journal entries. 

This summer, the E3 trip included a pilot English 2000 class. As a first-of-its-kind program, four students participated in distance learning via Moodle, Skype and GoToMeeting. As the students worked on their writing skills with the Alps in the background, David “Boz” Bowles, technical communication instructor, taught the class from the Engineering Communication Studio in Patrick F. Taylor Hall in Baton Rouge.

“Communicating and using the technology available will be paramount to the students’ success,” said Davis. “With so much work crossing not only city and state lines but also the Atlantic, they need to be able to use technology to communicate.”

“The experience completely surpassed my expectations. It was everything a student could imagine and then some … a perfect balance of school and pleasure,” said Pipes. “When you eat, study and tour with the same group of people, you become pretty close. After about a week, you feel like a small family, and everyone looks out for everyone else.”


 To learn more about E3, click here. To read the 2011 E3 blog, click here.

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