Living and learning in China: Engineering students travel to Hangzhou

Posted on 21. Jun, 2011 by in Academic Departments, Beyond Boundaries, Engineering Professional Development, Issues, Magazine, Mechanical Engineering, Students

They visited public gardens, climbed mountains, navigated a megacity, attended the World Expo, and toured factories. On top of all that, the 17 College of Engineering students who spent summer 2010 in China also took college courses. (The 2011 trip runs May 30 through July 23 and, with 22 students, is filled to capacity.)

The students—many of whom had never traveled far from home—hailed from virtually every College of Engineering department. They traveled to Hangzhou, a city of six million people about 120 miles southwest of Shanghai, where they lived and took classes at Zhejiang University.

The annual eight-week Zhejiang University Summer Program began in 2008, thanks to funding from Engineering Beyond Boundaries, a UW-Madison College of Engineering initiative. The program is administered through International Engineering Studies and Programs, which Amanda Hammatt directs. Several faculty and staff, including Mechanical Engineering Professor John Pfotenhauer and Technical Communications Director Laura Grossenbacher, play key roles in overseeing the program.

While in China, the American students blogged about their experiences. Here are three excerpts:

John Emholz at the Great Wall of China

John Emholz at the Great Wall of China. Submitted photo.

Nick Olp, about Chinese food: “Ordering is usually awkward and most often a mystery. I usually point at pictures on the menu on the left wall or point at the dishes of the people eating around me. After several days of this cycle, I approached with my friends once again and heard one of the cooks in the back say in English, ‘The American boys are back.’ Everyone laughed when we heard this, including the other cooks who have seen us there day after day.”

Jacob Kilbane, about a factory tour:
“We got to tour a factory that made large nuts and bolts for wind turbines from raw materials. Although I found the processes for forging, cutting, bending and threading to be very interesting, I found the lack of safety regulations to be of greater interest. In the factory there were workers working with glowing-hot red pieces of steel, massive pneumatic punches, lathes and cranes, and yet only a handful of workers wore safety glasses. I thought this was insane. We were even allowed to get within 3 feet of any machine we wanted to without safety glasses, gloves or words of caution. Our tour guide explained that in some factories, workers may purposely hurt themselves to collect insurance, so factories put up security cameras to deter them. We ended the tour by choosing a large defect nut or bolt to take home as a souvenir.”

John Emholz, about visiting the Great Wall: “The two-hour bus ride to the Great Wall took us through some interesting parts of the city, so instead of catching up on sleep I was staring wide-eyed out my window. Upon arrival at the Great Wall, I looked up the mountain and already knew I would be exhausted afterwards. I took a cable car up to the first watchtower and marveled at the ingenuity the ancient Chinese people used to craft the most amazing creation I have seen to date. The view from atop the wall was absolutely breathtaking. We walked up for miles along the top of the wall, stopping at each watchtower to rest and appreciate the view until we reached our final destination. At this point we had a choice as to how we wanted to get back down. We could either walk down or take a zip-line over a man-made lake. As young adventurous college kids, we took the zip-line to the bottom where we were relieved to collapse into our bus seats.”

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