Monday, August 13, 2007
Engineering class gives students international education
Seventeen students from the Manufacturing Process course in the Department of Mechanical Engineering visited China to work with their counterparts from Tongji University on a design project, tour automotive assembly plants, learned more about the manufacturing industry and experienc Chinese culture. (Photo courtesy of Mechanical Engineering)
By Rebecca Wyatt Thomas, OU Web Writer
Seventeen students recently returned from China where, as part of the Manufacturing Process course in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, they experienced a global economy first hand. The students worked with their counterparts from Tongji University on a design project, toured automotive assembly plants, learned more about the manufacturing industry and experienced Chinese culture.
“This kind of experience is being advocated not only by the university but by the industry,” said Gary Barber, chair of the mechanical engineering department and professor of engineering. Barber, along with associate professors of engineering Lian Yang and Lorenzo Smith and Professor of Engineering Randy Gu, organized the trip to Tongji University.
The spring 2007 students were the second group to participate in the program with Tongji University. The first class made the trip in 2005.
“We have an understanding about what is going on in China,” said Sebastian Dykas, a master’s student who participated in the 2005 trip. “It’s helpful to understand where manufacturing is going on that side of the world.”
The largest part of the experience was the design projects the students had to complete with students from Tongji University. Each group was given the same project and they had to work together to design a solution.
“We found we had very different strengths,” Dykas said. “They approached all the math and we went right for the design. Our students went from broad to specific, whereas they went from specific to broad.”
This year’s students had to design a disposal system on a conveyer. The system had to remove a part coming down the line that didn’t fit the production specifications.
“We had to refer to textbooks and use skills we had learned in other classes to complete the project,” said Yousif Hadad, who participate in this year’s trip. “In the beginning it was really a challenge. We were really interested in the design portion and they wanted to deal with the math element from the beginning. We also found the language barrier to be an issue. Sometimes we would actually have to draw concepts so they could understand what we were talking about. However, we worked through it. The experience really opened up my curiosity about how the world thinks and ideas about collaboration.”
At the end of the two-week trip, the student groups presented information about their projects to each other and the professors. Once the Oakland University students returned home, they were required to complete final reports, which were also presented to OU faculty and administrators.
The students were a mix of undergraduates and graduates exploring manufacturing processes. For the senior undergraduates, the project provided an opportunity for a senior design project topic.
Those who wanted to participate in the course and the trip applied to Barber at the beginning of the winter semester. Besides the cost of tuition, the students were responsible for the cost of travel. DaimlerChrysler and the Provost’s Office were able to provide financial support to the students and help cover much of the cost.
The students visited two different Tongji University campuses, the Jaiding campus and the campus in Shanghai. They were able to get a feel for the culture and the different environments.
While in China, the group also visited auto plants including Yanfeng Visteon Automotive Electronics and General Motors Shanghai. They were also able to sightsee and visited places like the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square.
The arrangement with Tongji University is part of a Memorandum of Understanding signed between OU and Tongji. Currently, trips to the university are to take place every other year, but Barber said he hopes there will be more frequent trips with rotating faculty and rotating universities.
On May 16, 2007, Oakland University entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Dalian Jiaotong University in China for future collaboration like that with Tongji. Oakland and Dalian Jiaotong are discussing ways to participate together in the exchange of teaching and research personnel, exchange of students, exchange of research material and books, development of courses and academic programs, development of research projects, and other academic and scientific ventures.
Barber said partnerships like the one with Dalian Jiaotong could provide another opportunity for OU students to participate in international education programs.
For more information on the mechanical engineering program, visit the Mechanical Engineering Web site. For more information on the engineering programs Oakland University offers, visit the School of Engineering and Computer Science Web site.