The international program for Engineering students is offered by the 100,000 Strong in the Americas
Three students from PUCRS’ School of Engineering (Feng) are at Rice University, Texas, to develop their activities at Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK), which is responsible for designing solutions by employing prototyping tools such as 3D printers, laser cutter, controllers and other pieces of professional equipment. Meanwhile, three students from Rice’s George Brown School of Engineering are at PUCRS to have academic training in some companies headquartered at the Science and Technology Park (Tecnopuc), such as HP, Toth and Rock Head Games. The international exchange program in the area of Engineering is a leg of the program 100,000 Strong in the Americas, sponsored by the American government.
The Dean of PUCRS’ School of Engineering (Feng), Carlos Alexandre dos Santos, believes this exchange will enable the cooperation between Feng and “one of the best universities in the USA, which has a reference engineering development laboratory in the United States”. In addition to allowing students and professors to develop their activities in another institution, the program will allow the use of the methodology applied in Rice, to the Feng courses. “The knowledge acquired during the exchanges, both by students and professors, can be replicated at Feng, and be applied to other areas of the University, such as Medicine and Biology, among others. Also, the agreement will continue as other Tecnopuc companies are expected to join and other Brazilian development agencies are expected to submit their projects”, ascertains Santos.
The projects carried out at PUCRS, are under supervision of Feng, at the Laboratory of Fabrication (LabFab), in collaboration with the Creativity Laboratory (Crialab) and Tecnopuc. The partnership will lead to the improvement of LabFab’s techniques and methods, and a model that is currently used at OEDK will be introduced to PUCRS. In addition to strengthening the ties between both institutions, the partnership develops projects in the area of engineering geared towards the solution of real Mechanics and Engineering problems. Another two missions for professors are planned for the second semester and a student exchange at the beginning of next year.
The program initiated on the last days of May and will last from six to eight weeks. Allison Salter, a Bioengineering student from Rice, describes the experience as challenging, but exciting. She is working on two projects at Toth as part of International Summer Experience Engineering Design. The first one aims to design a Bluetooth-enabled clinical thermometer. The second one, on the other hand, aims to help with the prototyping of an AED wall mount. “While the technical skills I have gained are important, the most important is my ability to work past my own confusion and lack of knowledge. It is very tough, but also very rewarding when you finish a task, knowing all you have accomplished to get to that point”, says she.
Nathalie Phillips is a Mechanical Engineering student and Spanish major. She arrived in Porto Alegre on May 28th and on June 5th she began her internship with HP Inc. She is prototyping the physical unit that will house the software and electronics group that HP has been working on. “Tecnopuc is a very unique type of business/university partnership that we certainly do not have at Rice. It is really nice being able to intern with HP but then have resources from the university to help with the project. Everyone I work with is very kind and I have been given a lot of freedom to get my project done. It has been a good way for me as a Mechanical Engineer to pay my contributions to an electrical/software company. I think it will set me in a good place for future internships and jobs. This experience will bring benefits to my professional education more so than to my academic education”, points she.
As well as his Rice colleagues, Latané Bullock, a Computer Engineering student and also a Linguistics student, understands this exchange experience at PUCRS will have a positive influence on his career. “I now know what it’s like to work in a startup environment, which has reassured my interest in startups. Putting the concepts that I have learned in the classroom in practice has been priceless. I am also glad to have this experience early in my education because I have a better understanding of how my skills will be used in the real world”, comments he. Bullock has an internship at Rockhead Games, where he helps out with a few different projects. “Most of my work is on a karting game that might seem similar to Mario Kart”, reveals he.
Three students from PUCRS’ School of Engineering are at Rice attending the International Summer Experience Engineering Design (ISEED 2017), at Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK). Luis Felipe Moura da Silva is a Control Engineering and Automation student and, during his stay in Houston, he developed a project of a smart device for patients with diabetes, specifically to prevent foot ulcer in the early stages. “My experience at Rice is unique. The campus has many features and has just been a great place to live, study and work. There are top notch laboratories equipped with all the tools and materials we need. What I like most is the way projects are executed, with a real client. We have meetings with customers to set the budget meetings, cost goal to produce the device, meetings between teams to define next development steps. In my training as an engineer, I am learning something new every day. Working in a team with people of different cultures is essential”, tells Silva.
Bruno Batista Valentini is a Mechanical Engineering student and he is part of a team composed two Rice students, a High School student. They are working on a device intended to for lift a person from the accent of a wheelchair (approximately 38cm) up to the height of the accent of a truck (a little over 91cm). “To develop the collaborative work in team with people of another culture is fundamental for engineers. The most important thing that I’m learning here is to use the Engineering Design process to create solutions, a process that, based on research, makes it possible to transform experts’ experience into qualitative data. It also makes it possible to choose the best solution for the problem, quickly test how it works, create and test prototypes until you have a final product”, tells Valentini.
In his view, the schedule is another great feature of the internship exchange at Rice. “We have an access card that opens the OEDK 24/7 and we are authorized to use it and most of the tools any time. This is amazing, we enjoy a lot of local infrastructure.”
Silva, Valentini and Carlos Alberto Jardim Sbradelotto, an Electrical Engineering student, are living in one of Rice’s dorms, very close to OEDK, along with other exchange students from Malawi and two students from Rice. “The place is great. We have everything we need for our stay and entertainment, such as kitchen, laundry, game room, piano. Our arrival was great. Someone was waiting for us at the airport to bring us to Rice and left us 50 meters from our dorms. When we got into it, there was a welcome basket with muffins and various types of cookies. They thought of everything”, praises Valentini.
At PUCRS, the exchange students were received with a homemade ‘churrasco’ made by the university professors and employees on their first night in Porto Alegre. “It was a great treat after many hours on an airplane”, remembers Allison. “It was a great way to start a trip to Brazil. The food was so good, I felt very welcomed. There were lots of people looking out for us”, says Nathalie.
For Allison, adaptation in a different country has been an interesting experience and she is still learning. “The only reason I am doing as well as I am is because of the people here, both at my job and at PUCRS. Everyone has worked hard to help us and made every effort to make sure we are adapting well”, comments she. This was her first time at Brazil and she is already excited to return in the future. Nathalie commends the opportunity to work with undergraduate students. “I have been able to learn about how university here in Brazil works compared to in the United States. PUCRS is also a very beautiful campus.”
Rice students are staying at Casa do Campus, an accommodation for students near PUCRS. “I love coming home to hear the chatter of students in Spanish, French, Portuguese and Japanese. Many of them have been here longer than us and know a lot about the city, but they also remember what it was like to come a new city/country”, says Allison. For Bullock, this is an amazing opportunity to have so many cultures living together so intimately. “I would say that it’s one of the best parts of the internship/exchange for me. I love hearing the different languages, and seeing each person’s growth is inspiring. I don’t think I will ever get to experience something as intensely as I am experiencing now”, comments he. Nathalie tells that she went on a trip to Foz de Iguaçu in early July with other students. “Since we came to Brazil with very, very limited Portuguese, it is great to have people that have been here a lot longer than us to ask questions about things to do and make suggestions”, concludes she.