Edited Journal: (Click here for photos)
What I Did On Spring Break
By Alexandra Forsythe
Special Topics – Energy Engineering, Professor Renie
When you think of college students on spring break, what picture forms in your mind? Rowdy kids making fools of themselves on Florida’s beaches?
Wipe that picture from your mind. Instead, picture this: a busload of bright, curious engineering students who want to spend their spring break learning more about the latest innovations in energy and engineering, all the while becoming immersed in a new culture and broadening their world view.
Thanks to a generous grant from AEP and Indiana Tech’s College of Engineering, I spent my spring break with about twenty students from Tech. Under the guidance of Professors Renie and Welch, we traveled across Germany visiting several companies, speaking with experts, and learning more about our profession. It was a life-changing, eye-opening experience – one that I will never forget.
We managed to squeeze so many wonderful experiences into the trip. It will be difficult to describe them all here, but I will make an attempt.
First, there were the companies. We visited BMW, MAN Trucks, and Volkswagen. At BMW World, we saw a BMW i8 (a new hybrid that I first learned about on Top Gear). The BMW factory was so pristine, you could almost eat off of the floors! The hundreds of robots are programmed to read codes to identify the make, model, and color of each car body that approaches so that the robot can determine precisely where and what to weld. MAN Trucks had an infectious enthusiasm for Kanban principles; their plant was dedicated to efficiency and lean methodologies. I’ve been studying Lean and Six Sigma and I’m a certified yellow belt, so I found their processes quite interesting and timely. At Volkswagen, we learned about the assembly of their electric cars: the e-Golf. The e-Golf has a regenerative braking system that uses the energy from the brake pedal to recharge the batteries.
Of course we visited several historic sites, and each was more spectacular than the last. Virgin Mary’s Square with the new Town Hall was a triumph of gothic architecture. The Berlin Wall, Blue Wonder Bridge, Arch of Victory, Eternal Flame, Caroline Square, and King’s Square in Munich were filled with historical significance. Neuschwanstein Castle was the most beautiful building I have ever seen, both inside and out. Pilgrimage Church had an exquisite gilded organ and breathtaking frescoes.
Unexpectedly, some of my favorite places to visit were the museums. The Deutches Museum is a technology museum that covers everything from energy to nanotechnology. We were guided by Mr. Lukas, who informed us that the museum was funded by royalty and created by Oskar Von Miller. In the energy section, we learned about James Watt who improved the steam engine, making it 4 times more efficient. Next, we saw a nuclear reactor model that demonstrated fission and fusion. Fusion occurs by crashing protons into each other, but it only occurs in extreme conditions. Fusion in the sun requires 250000000000 bars of pressure and 15000000 K. We then saw an actual nuclear reactor which had bars of uranium and other metals that produces 1300 MW. An alcohol-based device demonstrated that the room and all of us are slightly radioactive. Moving on to traditional energy sources, we learned that coal and gas produce 35 MJ/Kg and 43 MJ/Kg respectively, and that the world uses 96 million barrels of petrol every day. “Barrels” refer to herring barrels, which is what petrol was originally stored in. Next we learned about plant-based fuels, including coconuts, pine needles, beans, and wood. Last, we looked at wind, solar, and water power. In Munich, there is boiling water underground, which is ideal for geothermal energy. Across Germany, there are 26,000 windmills, each producing 7,500 KW of energy.
In the nanotechnology section, we learned about nanobots which can self-replicate like viruses. We also learned about nanoparticles that are created out of fire, mostly from metal oxides. The mostly commonly discussed nanoparticle is the carbon nanotube (700 µm in size) which is usually formed in a fluidized bed reactor. Further along, we learned about photolithography, a standard technique used in the production of semiconductors and similar to etching, but with light; the lower the wavelength, the smaller the structure that can be produced.
In other areas of the Deutches Museum, we learned that the ancient Egyptians created some of the first compasses, and we saw one of the first adding machines. The adding machine was enormous and used slides to perform multiplication as well. We saw some encrypting machines, and we saw some early computers. One was the repeating electric analog computer, which was several feet wide and several feet tall! It was used to display signals on oscilloscopes. The micro technology area demonstrated how silicon wafers are made and etched. Made of nanocrystals of silicon and other materials, the wafers are very light; one with a diameter of 100mm weighs just 25 grams. Also in this area of the museum was a programmable controller with 32,000 transistors that took up less than a foot in diameter. There were also early MOSFETs, relatively new surface-mounts, and one of the original Apple computers.
We also visited the Math and Physics Museum, which was filled with clocks, globes, telescopes, and burning lenses. The Deutsches Technik Museum, built in an old train station and around a boat from 1940, contained the first calculator ever made: the Z1 by Konrad Zuse. It could add, subtract, multiply, divide, and store numbers. The Z25 had a frequency of 260,000 Hz, performed 10,000 calculations per second, and had 20 kB of drum memory. The Zuse company sold about 163 of the Z25. In contrast, only seven Z31 machines were sold. The Z31 only performed 2300 calculations per second, and was double the price.
When traveling abroad, one of the major aspects is the culinary experience. The food in Germany was roll-your-eyes good! Everything from the breakfast buffets to the bratwurst to the schnitzel to the desserts was scrumptious. I’m not a fan of sauerkraut in the United States, but the sauerkraut in Germany made me a believer!
Two of the best events during the trip were the St. Patrick’s Day celebration and the Design Thinking Workshop. At the St. Patrick’s Day festival, I got a really cool hat and listened to traditional Celtic music. At the Workshop, we were shown a PowerPoint that displayed a graph with internal vs. external production, and targeted vs. disruptive products. Our speakers, Jens and Bianca, discussed open production and they used yet2.com as an example. Afterward, we did a team activity designing the perfect birthday party for our partner. I found the assignment difficult since my partner and I wanted polar opposite parties. I prefer a structured event, while my partner prefered spontaneity.
One of the unrelated aspects of the trip, but certainly one of the highlights, was the abundance of birds. Most people are painfully aware that I am an avid birder. I was the Indiana Audubon Society’s first Young Birder of the Year, I wrote all of their monthly bird articles for their website for the past several years, I speak at their conferences, and I rescue and rehabilitate raptors. Birding is obviously one of my passions, so when I have a chance to see birds that I have never seen before, I can hardly contain myself. In Germany, I saw several “lifers” (a lifer is a term that birders use to describe a species of bird that we have seen for the first time). Among them were: Greylag Goose, Eurasian Coot, Northern Lapwing, Common Buzzard, Common Kestrel, Red Kite, Hooded Crow, White Wagtail, Blue Tit, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Eurasian Nuthatch, Chaffinch, Eurasian Jay, Gray Heron, Black-Headed Gull, Little Grebe, and Great Cormorant. Considering I didn’t go birding while I was in Germany, that’s a rather long list of lifers! I’m thrilled!
On this energy and engineering study abroad trip, I learned a great deal more than I ever imagined possible! In just ten days, we studied traditional and green energies, learned about manufacturing processes and quality control methodologies, explored emerging technologies, immersed ourselves in Germany’s history and culture, and witnessed some of the most beautiful landscapes and architecture on earth. It was the trip of a lifetime, and I cannot thank AEP and Indiana Tech’s College of Engineering enough for allowing us to have this life-changing experience.
By Alexandra Forsythe
Special Topics – Energy Engineering, Professor Renie
Every student should study abroad at least once during college. I guarantee that it
will be the highlight of your college career; it will change your life, it will make you a
better person, and it will change your worldview. Thanks to a generous stipend
from AEP and Indiana Tech’s College of Engineering, I had the once-in- a-lifetime
opportunity to study energy and engineering in Germany!
I was in awe during the entire trip. Every meal was a new taste sensation. Every lake
and every mountain were breathtaking. Every castle seemed to have jumped from
the pages of storybooks. Every guide was entertaining. Every speaker was brilliant.
We explored historic landmarks, we admired the exquisite architecture and artistry
of a bygone era, we learned about brilliant innovations in technology, we glimpsed
the future of energy and engineering, and by the end of the program we could
envision our own potential contributions.
I learned more than I imagined possible, but because of the skillful teaching
methods of Professors Renie and Welch, learning was more enjoyable than in the
standard classroom and was therefore more impactful. It was experiential-based
learning at its finest, mixed with cultural immersion and a splash of history. I gained
a new way of looking at the world and a new appreciation for different ideas.
I would love to go on another study abroad, and there are several countries with
expertise and innovative ideas in energy and engineering. Scotland produces
enough wind power to supply electricity to their entire population, and the
University of Edinburgh has one of the best engineering colleges in the world. Japan
is known for robotics and quality control systems. South Korea is known for
technological advancements. Iceland is at the forefront of renewable energy,
especially geothermal and hydroelectric power. Switzerland and Australia are some
of the top producers of scientific papers. There’s much to learn no matter where the
study abroad might be.
Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “One’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never
regains its original dimensions.” Engineering students – please go on a study abroad.
Stretch your mind. You’ll return from the trip as a better person, and you’ll become a
much better engineer.
Original notes and journal from the trip - unedited:
Indiana Tech gave me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study engineering in Germany! It was the trip of a lifetime, and I will be forever grateful to Professors Renie and Welch, to our tour guide Jens, to AEP for their generous grant, and to the administration of Indiana Tech for making this amazing trip possible! I learned so much, not only about engineering concepts and methods, but also about German culture and history. I truly feel that I have grown as an engineer and as a person thanks to this trip. I cannot thank everyone enough for this life-changing experience.
To see the photos from this trip, click here for my Germany Photo Gallery page.
Day 1: (March 10, 2018) – Indiana Tech to Indianapolis to Chicago.
At 9:09 AM, we departed from Indiana Tech to begin our journey. We reached the Indianapolis Airport at about 11:30, and after making our way through security, I began playing Euchre with my newfound friends. Several hours later, we boarded a small plane and made our way to O’Hare Airport, seeing the Indy 500 race track and Fermilab from the air on our way. After a relatively short wait, we boarded our flight to Germany and prepared for the adventure of a lifetime!
Day 2: (March 11, 2018) – Munich, Germany
We woke this morning to see Germany below us, and it was magnificent! At the airport, there was a Northern Lapwing by the runway, signaling the beginning of an epic trip. At the airport, we met Jens our tour guide, and we boarded the bus. We learned a lot, including that BMW stands for Bavarian Motor Works and used to produce airplane engines. Then we went to BMW World. On the way there, I spotted a Common Buzzard, which is a kind of hawk. In the old world, Hawks are called Buzzards.
Germany is the only country in the world with no speed limit on their autobahns. In BMW world, we saw a 250 BMW Isetta, one of the smallest cars ever made. We also saw the BMW i8, a new hybrid car I had seen on Top Gear. Next, we made our way to München (Munich). As we drove, I saw a beautiful riverside path edged by crocus. In the Munich city center, we saw Virgin Mary’s square, which had the most magnificent building I’d ever seen – the new Town Hall. Its gothic architecture includes more elements than I can count. We also got cheese pretzels, which were, of course, delicious. Next, we saw Hofbräuhaus, the original royal brewery in Germany. We entered and had a very friendly waiter, then we moved on to Maximillian Street, which is the Magnificent Mile in Germany. We then walked to Odium Square, which was a public stage. From there we walked to the St. Patrick’s Day festival, where I received a free hat and observed the festivities, such as traditional Scots Music and dress. Finally, we attended dinner in Augustiner Bürgenheim, where we ate salad, chicken, and an apple sauce dessert.
Day 3: March 12, 2018
This morning, we woke to eat from a delicious buffet with sausages, fresh fruit, Brie cheese, and breads. We then made our way to MAN. They manufacture TGX and TGS trucks. They specifically create hypoid gearing and planetary axels, the frames, and cabs. Most of the assembly followed Kanban principles, which are very lean and efficient. They also put catalytic converters on the trucks, which reduces nitric oxide emissions. In the entire factory, they only have 80 robots, which is why they employ 9,500 people at just the Munich location. They also use diesel engines in all of their trucks, which have relatively high efficiency at 47%.
We then went to get lunch at the market. I got bratwurst and tried schnitzel, and both were incredibly good. I also (accidently) got a mango soda, which was also good. Next, we went souvenir shopping, then we got ready for our next tour. Our tour guide was named Elizabeth, and she was incredibly knowledgeable about the history of Munich. We visited Ludwig Street, which has the Arch of Victory, then we went to the Eternal Flame. After visiting those, we made our way to Caroline Square, named after the first queen, Queen Caroline. Then we went to King’s Square, created by King Ludwig I to resemble Greece. King’s Square eventually became the Nazi headquarters and was where they held book burnings. Munich has the highest density of museums in the world. Augustiner-Bräu is the oldest brewery in Munich. We went to Nymphenburg Palace where we found White Wagtails. The Nymphenburg Palace was a summer Palace for the royalty of Bavaria. We also drove by the Olympic Stadium and learned that they created a new kind of swimming pool filter. They formed the Olympic Hill with rubble from World War II. We went to Hofbräuhaus for dinner, which is a famous beer hall, where I learned that a) German pork is the best pork and b) German “lemonade” is actually Sprite.
Day 4: March 13, 2018
Once again, today started with a delicious breakfast at the hotel. We went to the Deutches Museum, a technology museum. We first took a guided tour with Mr. Lukas, who first gave us the history of the museum, which was created by Oskar Von Miller and funded by royalty. Then we visited the energy section which includes James Watt, who improved the steam engine, making it 4X more efficient. Next, we saw a nuclear reactor model, which showed how nuclear fission and fusion works. Fusion in the sun uses 250000000000 bars of pressure and 15000000 K. Fusion is done by crashing protons into each other which only occurs in extreme conditions. We then saw an actual nuclear reactor which has bars of uranium and other metals, and it has water running through it. This particular reactor produces 1300 MW. As uranium has a 7-million-year half-life, disposing of it is extremely difficult. We also saw proof that the room and all of us are slightly radioactive with an alcohol-based device. The two main fuels are still coal and gas, which produce 35MJ/Kg and 43MJ/Kg, respectively. The world uses 96 million barrels of petrol every day. “Barrels” refers to herring barrels, which is what petrol was originally stored in. Next came the plant-based fuels, including coconuts, pine needles, and beans. Wood also has a log energy in CO2. Finally, we looked at wind, solar, and water power. In Munich, there is boiling water underground, which is accessed via pipes which it shoots up through. In Germany, they have 26 thousand windmills, each of which produces approximately 7,500 KW. Solar is only 60-70% efficient.
On our own, we visited nanotechnology and learned about nanobots, which can self-replicate like viruses. I also learned about creating nanoparticles out of fire, mostly from metal oxides. Nano particles of silicon dioxide have been used since the 1940’s. Carbon nanotubes are usually formed in a fluidized bed reactor and are about 700 um in size. Photolithography is a standard technique in the production of semiconductors and is similar to etching, but with light. The lower the wavelength, the smaller the structures that can be produced.
The ancient Egyptians created some of the first compasses. We also saw an adding machine, which was enormous compared to today’s calculators! It uses slides to complete multiplication as well. We saw some encrypting machines, which had tons of gears to make the encryption harder to break. There were also some early computers, such as the repeating electric analog computer, which was several feet wide and tall! It was originally to display signals on oscilloscopes. There was also a micro technology area, which showed how silicon wafers are made and etched. They are made of nanocrystals of silicon and other materials. The wafers are very light; one with a diameter of 100mm weighs just 25 grams. There were examples like a programmable controller with 32,000 transistors, which was less than a foot in diameter! They also had some early MOSFETS and the relatively new surface-mounts. One of the original Apple computers was also on display.
At the BMW factory, we saw the entire process from the pressing of the parts to the production to the engine assembly. At this particular factory, they create M3, M4, Series 3 and Series 4 BMWs. They create 4-12 cylinder engines and 6-cylinder diesel engines. There are 840 robots in just the assembly section and over 8,000 employees! The robots mostly spot-weld, and each car has 6,000 separate spot-welds. The factory was one of the cleanest I’d ever seen - almost sterile. Once more, were not allowed to take pictures while in the factory. In BMWs, they use a special steel alloy to make some of the strongest production frames in the world. So, the robots can tell what needs to be done on the car; there is a code stating the model of car and its color, which the robot reads with a camera.
For dinner, I had pork sausage with sauerkraut and a pretzel, which was great! I dislike American sauerkraut, so the German sauerkraut was a tasty surprise.
Day 5: March 14, 2018
Today started with another delicious breakfast of orange slices, cheese skewers, and bread. We made our way to Dachau, the second-oldest and longest-run concentration camp. The first Nazi gassing was on a bus targeting disabled people. We visited a nearby palace, which had magnificent gardens, and we saw a witch’s house. On the way to the bus, I spotted a colony of Rooks. Next, we went to Neuschwanstein castle, and on the way I saw a Red Kite. The castle was mad King Ludwig’s castle, one of 3. I also saw a Black Stork on the drive. Ludwig had the first phone connection in all of Bavaria. Once we arrived, we saw the most beautiful castle I have ever seen. It was HUGE! We got to tour the castle and learn its history. The first room was gorgeous, with painted ceilings and ionic columns. The castle was built in September of 1867. First, we saw the servant’s quarters, which were actually very nice. Next was the Throne Room, which was designed like the Byzantine Church. There was no throne, as the king died before it could be made, but there was a beautiful chandelier and paintings on every surface. There were also Corinthian columns throughout the room. We also saw the King’s bedroom, which had magnificent wood carvings, and his dressing room, which was again filled with paintings based on operas. We made our way to the concert hall, which was again beautiful, and there the tour ended. We also visited a Pilgrimage Church, which was just as beautiful inside! There was even a gilded organ and cherub statues everywhere. Oberammergau was our next destination. On the way there, I spotted a Gray Heron. Oberammergau has the most famous passion plays in the world every 10 years. We got gelato to finish our day.
Day 6: March 15, 2018
Today we made the journey to Dresden, stopping at Nuremburg on the way. While driving to Nuremburg, I saw a Skylark and a Sparrowhawk. In Nuremburg, we saw the castle, which even had a moat and its own water supply! Only one person had access to the water supply to reduce the risk of it being poisoned.
Unfortunately, the castle was closed for renovations, but the town was still open. In the town, another church with gothic architecture was prominent, and we learned the purpose of the gargoyle: to scare away any evil spirits. For lunch, I had gingerbread cookies and some miniature bratwursts with sauerkraut. Then we were back on the road again, en route to Dresden.
In Dresden, we learned about Fredrick the Strong - the first king of Saxony and also the king of Poland. He gained the second position by making a deal with the pope: the pope would give him the crown if Frederick converted back to being Catholic. Once the king became Catholic again, he created a new, grand church to celebrate. He also ordered the construction of a new greeting entry way to the city which looks like a set of palaces. We also saw Mary’s Church, which was destroyed during the war and put back together from the rubble. Finally, we saw the Prince’s Procession and had schnitzel for dinner.
Day 7: March 16, 2018
Today started with a visit to Volkswagen’s factory. Their factory in Dresden only produces the e-golf line, and they produce 72 cars per day. The factory only assembles the parts, putting together pre-made pieces. They have only 3 robots in the facility, and 125 employees working on the assembly line. There are 64 steps, and each takes 12 minutes, which is why they produce so few cars.
After Volkswagen, we had free time to explore. I went to Italienesches Dorfen, where I had a smoked salmon salad with chocolate cake for dessert. They also brought us a free cake slice, and all of it was incredible! Outside the window we had a view of Black-headed Gulls and Hooded Crows to enhance the experience. Next, we went to the local mathematics and physics museum. Surprisingly, most of the exhibits were clocks or globes. They did have a few telescopes and burning lenses, though. After we left the museum, we went sight seeing and made our way around the city.
Day 8: March 17, 2018
This morning started with a stop by the Blue Wonder Bridge, which was the first steel bridge in Dresden. It was built in 1893 and was one of the longest bridges ever built that didn’t use pillars. We reached Berlin and first visited Humboldt University, where their previous faculty included Einstein, Schrodinger, Hertz, Marx, Planck, and even Haber. Next was the Prince’s Palace and Altes Museum, where I saw a Little Grebe. The museum’s grounds are beautiful, with plenty of trees and greenery.
After a quick pizza lunch, we had a guided tour of Berlin, where we visited the Arch of Victory and Parliament building. We also drove by the Victory Column, which celebrated the victory over Denmark, France, and Austria. We visited the Berlin wall, which was surprisingly only 10 feet high. The wall was short, but what kept people from crossing were the armed soldiers lined up on the other side. Finally, we had dinner, which consisted of meatloaf, sausage, and a cherry-jam and cream dessert. We learned about various landmarks in the “city of somehow”, including the Jewish memorial, which is supposed to look like different things to different people. Some people described the appearance as ash and trains, but I thought it looked like coffins.
Day 9: March 18, 2018
The design thinking workshop was today, and it was fun! First they showed us a PowerPoint displaying the graph between internal and external production and targeted vs. disruptive products. Our speakers were Jens and Bianca, and they also discussed open production and used yet2.com as an example. After their speech, we did an activity in which we designed the perfect birthday party for our partner, which was very difficult. I had Abdullah as my partner, and we wanted the exact opposite party: I like a more structured event, and Abdullah likes more spontaneity. For lunch, I had a steak and avocado sandwich at a small restaurant that played “Carry on My Wayward Son” by Kansas. The sandwich was great.
Next was the Deutsches Technik Museum, which had the first calculator ever made: the Z1 by Konrad Zuse. It could add, subtract, multiply, divide, and store numbers. Part of the museum was an old train station and another part was built around a boat from 1840. When we got to explore by ourselves, I saw a stealth glider, the precursor to our stealth bombers, and made my way back to Zuse’s section. There, I looked at the Z2s, which had about 260,000 Hz as the frequency, 10,000 calculations per second, and 20 Kilobytes of drum memory. The Zuse company sold 163 of these, and as they only sold 500 mainframe computers overall, the Z35 made up a huge percentage. In contrast, the Z31 only had 2,300 calculations per second, was double the price and only sold 7 machines. Lastly, we went to Checkpoint Charlie, where the only confrontation between the U.S. and Russia occurred during the Cold War. Somewhere in this area I lost my original notebook and spent the rest of the night panicking about it.
Day 10: March 19, 2018
Today I continued to search for the lost notebook to no avail. At the airport, we said goodbye to Jens and began our long journey home, most of which was spent rewriting my journal.
To see the photos from this trip, click here for my Germany Photo Gallery page.