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Category: Academics (Page 1 of 2)

BMW: Driving the Future

Written by guest bloggers Alex Rahban & Nicolette Slusser.
 

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“The Ultimate Driving Machine.” A motto held by one of the most well-known auto-manufacturers of the world, BMW – a company forged from aircraft engines and redefined through luxury automobiles. BMW’s history is filled with a rich racing past. Enthusiasts remain true to the brand for its buttery smooth inline 6’s and long throw manual transmissions, but today, the students of Georgia Tech Lorraine experienced a different side of BMW.

Far from the well-known four-cylinder building, we were given private access to BMW’s autonomous vehicle development location. Beyond the unpaved walkways, wet concrete, and yellow caution tape lay the secrets to BMW’s future in mastering level 4 autonomous driving.

Although BMW had previously trod lightly on the topic of self-driving cars, commenting that they wanted to be certain not to dilute their renowned automotive brand, they shared the structure behind how such a system would work. Students were made aware of the difficulties of developing the technology to make self-driving vehicles fully functional on the road. They require advanced software that must be able to process the frames of an image, classify the different objects in the Image, and determine how to interact with them safely. Just one hour of driving produced several terabytes of data which the vehicle had to process in order to function properly. The test vehicles at BMW required a full trunk of hardware to perform this task (weighing in at over 500lbs); however, they indicated when released, the hardware for their vehicles would only require as much space as a shoe box.

From the visit, it is clear that BMW is making a full effort to produce this technology, yet at this moment, they are several years from completion. We had the privilege of being the first group to ever tour the facility; unfortunately though, photographs were not permitted. Although BMW has chosen to be quite secretive with the public about their participation in autonomous vehicles, we can expect BMW to produce truly revolutionary vehicles exceeding both the highest automotive and technological standards.

 
 

GTL’s WIE Scholarship Recipients

This past weekend, I got to interview the four wonderful ladies who were the lucky recipients of the Women In Engineering (WIE) Scholarship! Emily Eastburn, Lauren Boulger, Rachel Clark, and Elaine Johnson all won scholarships awarded by the Women in Engineering program for being exemplary students not only in their academics, but in their daily lives as well. Respectively, the scholarships were funded by Arconic, General Motors, United Technologies, and Saint Gobain. These four are out of the 169 inspiring young women to win, the rest of whom are at GT-A and not GTL for this semester. The Women in Engineering program at Tech is one of the largest in the country – and gives out the most scholarships of any women in engineering program.
 
Here are some of the questions I asked them:
 
1. What year are you in and what is your major?
2. Why did you choose to come to GTL? How are you liking France (Europe) so far?
3. What has been your best European adventure?
4. What are your plans after GT?
5. What is your dream job and why?
 

 

Emily Eastburn (Arconic)

 I am a second year Materials Science Engineering (MSE) major. I chose GTL because I wanted to take classes that counted towards my major, and I have always wanted to travel Europe. My favorite adventure was spring break in Italy because it was so gorgeous, and the food was amazing! I am planning on going to grad school after GT. Hopefully for a PhD in biomaterials or bioengineering. My dream job would be working in a lab on prosthetics or tissue engineering. I want to be able engineer something that will make someone’s life better through bioengineering.
 

Lauren Boulger (General Motors)

I am majoring in Industrial and Systems Engineering (SyE), and I am in my fourth year. I wanted to come to Europe (for the first time) to expand my horizons and experience awesome places. I have loved it all, but Normandy was the place that surprised me the most. I went to Mont Saint-Michel and climbed the cliffs of Étretat, and they were amazing. I hope to work in supply chain and maybe a rotational program. My dream job would be a VP of supply chain, as it would challenge me to combine everything I’ve learned with leadership skills.
 

Rachel Clark (United Technologies)

I am a 2nd year, majoring in Electrical Engineering. I chose to visit GTL because it is an incredible opportunity to visit Europe and continue to take classes that count towards my degree. GTL is a great study abroad program for ECE students because they offer so many major classes. Also, I am an out of state student, so GTL is a deal!
I loved exploring some of the cities close to Metz with my roommate, Ashleigh! We spent the weekend visiting Nancy and Strasbourg. It was interesting to see the drastic differences between two cities that are so close together. Nancy has an almost Parisian vibe, with a beautiful, ornately decorated square. Strasbourg, on the other hand, looks much more German, with a gothic cathedral and medieval half-timbered houses. Ashleigh always says they remind her of the houses in Beauty and the Beast! It has a fascinating history, constantly switching between French and German possession. It is so interesting to visit cities so close to where we live that have such different cultures!
After GT, I plan on working as a software engineer in the defense industry, hopefully developing products that help the US military. My dream job would be a job where I can work on my interests within EE, which include signal processing, software engineering, and digital design. I would love to work on both the hardware and software sides of a product.
 

Elaine Johnson (Saint Gobain)

I am a second year Materials Science and Engineering major with a German minor. I chose to come to GTL because I knew it would be a great opportunity to explore Europe and meet other Tech students, while also staying on track with my degree. Europe has been absolutely incredible so far. It’s crazy to think about how many countries and cultures I have had the opportunity to experience in these past four months! My best European adventure so far has probably been hiking with friends through the Black Forest in Germany.

After GT I hope to attend graduate school for engineering. My dream job has always been to work in the automotive industry and work with cars. But the more I learn through school and in the research field, the more my dream job changes!
 
Congratulations to these wonderful young ladies!

Top Five Test Week Tips

This week has been a true test of the character and constitution of GTL’s students. As the week before spring break, this week is optimal time for tests, right before the long mental relaxation period know as Spring Break. Before we can go on our week-long travels, however, we must be put through the grueling week known as… test week.
I had three tests this week, and although I mostly felt like screaming at walls and curling up in a small ball on the floor, there are some things that are really helpful to do in preparation that can alleviate anxiety and help you prepare for the tests.
1. Make a crib sheet – even if you don’t get one on the test
A really helpful study tool that I have found is compiling all of the relevant formulas and concepts on one or two sheets of paper, neatly organized. This allows you to understand what you need to study. It allows you to know what you don’t know, so to speak. Crib sheets, or review sheets in general help take your chaotic notes and ideas and put them into one place. From there, you can use it to do practice problems you are stuck on, memorize formulas, and practice concepts.

My review sheet for Def Bods.


2. Make a study plan that involves sleep
It really helps me to set a goal for myself daily, whether it be doing a certain number of problems, reading a certain part of a textbook, or re-doing some in-class examples. If you set a daily goal, and make sure you meet the goal, you can feel prepared without cramming or staying up all night. I will be the first one to say, I am not very good at following this plan. However, at GTL, it is easier to focus. I usually stay at GTL until I am finished studying. Therefore, I can reserve the GTL student lounge for studying, and my dorm for relaxing and sleeping. This is much better for my sleep schedule, and general mental health.

 

3. Ask for help!
It’s a different atmosphere at GTL . The awesome thing about hanging out in the GTL lounge is that you are surrounded by people studying hard for tests, just like you. Although it can be a bit scary going up to someone you don’t know to ask for help on a problem, it actually benefits people to help explain a tricky problem or concept to you. Pull over one of the whiteboards, give it a go, and everyone wins!

Students relaxing after the final round of tests.


4. Don’t burn out
If you are feeling like you are reading the same sentence in the textbook over and over and over and over again, don’t worry. Take a break. Get up, walk around, play some ping pong, and then come back. You will retain the information better on a well-rested mind.

 

5. Don’t compare yourself to others
Everyone studies differently, and no two people learn the same. Don’t beat yourself up about not doing every single textbook problem, or not making that perfect review sheet. If someone says a concept is easy and you think it’s hard, do not despair. Just keep moving at your own pace, and don’t compare yourself. GTL can get like a small bubble sometimes, but comparing yourself to others will only damage your drive and motivation. The best person to beat is your past self.
So good luck test takers! Remember, relax and you got this!

Portes Ouvertes and French Education

Over the past weekend, our very own Georgia Tech Lorraine took part in a program for French high school students called “Portes Ouvertes,” or “Open Doors.” This involves French students being able to visit places of higher learning, including us, all over the city to get a glimpse into what it’s like to be a student at different universities and institutions. The event works like an open house where the students get to tour the facilities and hear presentations from college students and faculty on research, daily life, and other things pertaining to higher education and to the school in particular. This is a great opportunity for French students to preview universities, similar to how we do in the United States.

In my personal experience, as a high-schooler, I decided not to apply to any schools in my home state of Washington and, due in large part to that, I was not able to tour any of the colleges I wanted to attend. However, not everybody is as lucky as me to go in blind and love the school they chose. I believe that the more information students are given before they make such an important life choice, the better.

Something that amazes me about French students is their grasp of multiple languages. Almost every student can speak English quite well and most have some knowledge of a third language as well. This is due to the way language teaching works in the French school system. Through some research I found that French students choose their first language at age 11 from either English or German (with 90% choosing English). Then, two years later, students may select another language, this time with Spanish included. As a result of spending their years from age 11 to 18 learning two other languages, most French students are very linguistically skilled. Although English has become one of the biggest world languages today (behind only Chinese and Spanish), I wish our school system would stress learning a second (or third) language more, if only to improve cultural awareness among American students.

Another difference in the French school system comes with higher education. French universities tend to be quite small in comparison to those in the U.S., and most middle-sized French cities will have 2 to 3 universities – and even more specialized institutes. France also holds over 100 international universities, which is defined as a college where some or all studies are taught in a non-local language, which tends to be English most of the time. In fact, in Austria, I met a pair of American students who were studying at the American University in Paris, which is apparently an international university with campuses in multiple countries outside of the U.S.

And of course when it comes to tuition, French students also have it good. Public universities in France typically only charge from 150-700 euros a year, as higher education is state-funded. This allows French students to obtain a master’s degree for as little as €1000. Meanwhile, I’m here paying $30,000 a year tuition. Oh well, we can’t all be winners. I’m glad GTL is doing its part to help the local community and work to further public education.

Taking Advice from Professors

A List of Advice from my Professors, and what all of it means:
This semester at GTL, I am taking four classes with three wonderful professors and two rockin’ TAs. At the beginning of class, usually somewhere between the professor’s introduction of him or herself and the reading of the syllabus, each of my professors have offered a bit of advice to traveling students. Here is a list of some of the sage wisdom of my professors, and how it might help us students balance the chaotic blend of study and travel.
1. It’s a study abroad program, not a travel abroad program.
I am pretty sure every single one of my professors and TA’s reminded us of this fact. Yes, we are here to travel and enjoy our stay, explore Europe and become global citizens. However, most of us chose this program because the engineering classes are comparable to the ones at Georgia Tech. That means that yep, you guessed it, they are going to be a lot of work. Probably more than we are imagining. In the wise words of Professor Patoor, my Deformable Bodies professor, “Leave a little time for studies too, eh!”

 

Students get ready for class

2. Planning trips takes time.
In addition to taking Georgia Tech caliber classes, finding our way around a brand new continent, completing our homework, eating and (hopefully) practicing good hygiene, GTL students must learn to become excellent logistics coordinators. Planning a week or so in advance, we have to find hostels or Airbnb’s, plan our train route, find time to see all of the tourist attractions everyone our group is interested in, and make sure that everyone is on the same page. This is no small feat. According to my wise differential equations professor, Dr. Li, it took past students up to 10 hours per week to adequately plan each weekend trip. Keep that in mind, folks!
3. Do your work in advance!
There is nothing worse than not being able to enjoy a weekend of travel due to unfinished homework. It is a good idea to plan ahead, and get as much work done as possible before the weekend rolls around and the delightful chaos of traveling ensues. Especially when homework is published to sites like Coursera, says my Circuits TA Brandon Carroll, it is a good idea to work ahead when you have more time, rather than procrastinating and having school cut into your travel time due to your lack of prep. Sorry procrastinators! Time to buckle down and get some work done.

ECE 3710 TA Brandon Carroll poses in front of the circuit diagrams he has been teaching.

 
4. Don’t let the checklist mentality get to you
A lot of students, myself included, seem to be stuck in a checklist mentality, meaning we have a long list of places we want to visit and will travel to every place just to say we have been there. My history professor, Dr. Stoneman, advises to pick a place, and really spend time there and get to know the culture and locale. This experience can be more valuable, because it’s much more immersive than the fly-by-tourism that we could thrust ourselves into. This is not to say don’t go to all of the places you want to. Just remember, it’s okay to slow down, or revisit your favorite place. You will come back! And remember, in the words of Dr. Stoneman, “Metz is in Europe too!”

GTL is such a wonderful program, because you can really tell that the staff cares about both your studies and your experiences. And as a brand-spanking-new, fully autonomous, pretty much kid, I must say that the syllabus week advice I received from my professors is very valuable to me and my fellow students.

I Want a BMW

Posted by Harry

Photo courtesy of BMW.

(Harry’s personal view on the “A VIP Experience of German Engineering” piece)

Sometime down the line in our future, we will be faced with a decision of buying a car. Now I don’t know about you, I find this really exciting, yet nerve-racking at the same time. We need to find one that fits both our needs and price. For me, that’s probably going to be anywhere between a Lamborghni and Ferrari (jokes). In addition, I think we’d all like a luxury car at some point. I didn’t know what I want, but I think after this class field trip to the BMW Headquarters, the choice is a little clearer.

I’m enrolled in a class called Society and Technology in a Modern World: Regions of Europe (a.k.a. HTS 2100). This class gives me a little break from all those engineering courses I’m enrolled in and takes me and others to cool site visits of particular industries. This past field trip was to the BMW headquarters in Munich, as part of the automobile industry. We started with an introduction to industrial engineering and technological innovations at BMW: they’re not only coming up with new designs and concepts to make their products better, but also making the process more efficient and safer for the workers. After a nice lunch that consisted of a couscous salad, sautéed vegetables, pan-seared duck and noodles, and dessert (the details of the lunch are critical to the story), we headed off to take a tour of the plant.

Now unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take any pictures inside of the plant due to privacy but what I saw in there pretty much blew my mind. A lot of work is done by robots, and these robots were big, powerful, and extremely precise. Some of the small, detail oriented work you’d expect a human to do was actually done by some of these amazing robots. Our tour guide also gave us some neat information, such as:

• About 1000 cars are produced in the Munich plant PER DAY
• Of those cars produced, two-thirds are actually custom ordered and the last third is sent off to standard dealers.
• To make another statement on the individuality of cars, it’s highly unlikely that out of all the cars that the Munich plant produces in a year, two cars will be alike just due to the sheer combination and consumer needs.
• A lot of other cool information.

Another unfortunate fact is that we were unable to go to test out some of these sweet rides because the test track was somewhere else. Still, to see the process from beginning to end where a big heap of materials turns into a luxurious vehicle was incredible. There’s just something about seeing a product being made and the work that goes into it makes it that much more attractive.

The BWM i8. Photo courtesy of BMW.

If you’re ever in Munich, I would highly recommend checking out the headquarters as you can not only tour the plant, but also visit the BMW Museum and the “Welt”. Otherwise than that, I would also recommend taking the HTS 2100 class for future GTL-ers if you’re interested in taking visits to some awesome sites such as this one.

A VIP Experience of German Engineering

Hey, there, everyone! Our bloggers, Harry and James, are enjoying a much-needed fall break this week, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t cool things going on at GTL!

These GTL students got treated to an extra special tour of BMW.

This particular adventure has been in the works since spring 2014. As you may know, GTL has pioneered some fantastic, excursion-supplemented courses over its 25 years in France, including INTA 2221: Politics in the EU: Metz as a Gateway for understanding France and Europe Today (taught by Dr. Birchfield and Professor Serafin), and HTS: Technology and Society (taught by Dr. Stoneman).  These tie in the studies of the area with field trips to sites specifically related to topics discussed in class.

Visiting BMW headquarters in Munich, Germany.

Visiting BMW headquarters in Munich, Germany.

Well, on Friday, October 14th, 2016 – two years after the incipience of the idea – a small group of GTL students in this fall’s HTS 2100 course, which aims to demonstrate how the relationship between technology and culture has changed in the modern age, ventured to the BMW headquarters in Munich. Mr. Frank Woellecke and his team at BMW put together a “BMW Exploration Day” for the students, which included professional seminars, a VIP plant tour, an HR talk on internships and employment opportunities, and a closing workshop, as well as lunch and refreshments. The students were (understandably) impressed – one even describing it as the highlight of her time in Europe.

All smiles after that awesome experience!

And so, even with all of the amazing opportunities just by being in Europe, we can definitely add this to the list of experiences classified under “only at GTL!”

 

One Month In

Posted by James

One month into our studies here at Georgia Tech Lorraine, and already life has changed. The other day I was talking to a friend of mine about just this.

He said, “What do you miss most about home?” And for the longest time I couldn’t think of an answer. It took me two days to finally produce something tangible. The reason for such a time lapse is based on how I’ve approached this study abroad. As in earlier blog posts, the advice I’ve gathered from others or given myself has to do with being open minded. As Americans we tend to believe our way of doing this is better than other countries. Not the case, for many things.

For instance, today I went on a tour of our local superstore CORA. Harry has already written about its marvelous wonders. The importance of this tour was that it was given by our French professor. She explained to us the ins and outs of how local French people shop. As we were leaving one aisle she stated, “Real quick, I want to show you all the sweets before we end class for the day!” Instantly I was thinking of chocolate and ice cream, my common comfort foods, but she showed us “petit Suisse” or little Swiss, a dairy-based product that most French people eat with sugar. This is just one of the many things that is different between French and American culture. So one month in, I’ve been soaking it all in, thinking and observing all the minute differences: the fact that Europeans only seem to drive hatchbacks, that French people eat bread with every meal, the different attitudes people give you when you approach them in their native language, how Europeans do their shopping daily, and that soccer is ingrained in everyone on this continent, and more. The list goes on and on for differences in terms of culture and ways of living.

In terms of academia there is also a large difference between the teaching dynamic here at Georgia Tech Lorraine and of the teaching in Atlanta. In Atlanta, class sizes are usually much larger even for selective classes in selective majors. The maximum number of students living here at GTL this semester is slightly under 200. Due to the much smaller class sizes, classes seem to be more intimate. The professors will tell jokes to lighten the moods during difficult lectures. Professors also pay more attention to the individual then in Atlanta, and the class size allows for this to happen. I find myself having one on one conversations with my professors on an almost daily basis. Here, the emphasis is on learning the material. To quote my AE professor Dr. Zaid, “we want to make sure you understand the concepts first, the big ideas!”

In closing, some more advice. These last weeks have flown by, mainly because I was paying attention to them. If you open up to the differences and accept them you will see the joy it can cause. Everything is a new experience, which is very rare for anyone over 5 years old. Every day I wake up not knowing what part of my day will be filled with amazing adventure. However, I know it is bound to happen. This is the beauty of studying abroad and immersing yourself in a foreign environment.

 

The Student Lounge

Posted by Harry

Panorama of the student lounge.

One of my favorite places to be is the student lounge. If I had to find the “heart” of Georgia Tech Lorraine, it’d be here. This is where all the students (both undergrad and graduate) come to do a variety of things. GTL has always been known to be a “community,” and this is a huge contributing factor. From morning until night, this place is always bustling with people.
Located conveniently on the first floor (in France, this is actually the 0th floor, known as rez-de-chaussée) right past the front door, it’s easily accessible to all. Here, you can meet all the wonderful cohorts that are on this adventure together. Whether it’s talking about what happened the past weekend or what you’re going to do the next weekend, no one is a stranger here. Sharing and hearing experiences of others has been very fulfilling and rewarding and gives me a place to add to my bucket list!
There’s also quite the academic side to this room as well. There’s a plethora of desks and chairs on wheels to (1) make a custom desk set-up (2) move to a custom location of choice (3) super tables for group work sessions (4) any other fun things you wish to do with desks and and chairs on wheels. Computers with various software are also made to accommodate our academic needs.
Finally, my personal favorite aspect is the ping pong table and pool table. It’s a wonderful way to let some competitive energy out and take a nice break from the hard work that we put in during the day.
Come one, come all! There’s a place at the student lounge for everyone!

Finals Week

Posted by Morgan

MK-Finals

Finals week: the dreaded experience of taking tests students spent way too long studying for; zombie like students roam the halls; witnesses have reported seeing students collapse after testing.

This definition is a universal definition for most colleges, and a definition that I am sure Georgia Tech students know all too well.  So I am sure you’re wondering, how does it change for the study abroad experience?

Well, the experience here is still just as stressful and exhausting, but somehow I seem to see many more smiles at the GTL lounge this week than I did at the CULC, the major study spot in Atlanta, during finals week. Maybe it is because everyone is still on the travel high. Maybe it is because everyone is excited that it is almost time to go home. Or maybe it is just because of the small, tight knit community here at GTL.

As I wander through the lounge, content with the fact that I only have my French final to prepare for, I see laughing faces and group discussions. I wave to my friends and stop to say hi to some people. It’s a small and tight knit atmosphere, an atmosphere not easily found on the Atlanta campus.

Those who are not studying for their finals are either taking a break playing ping pong or working on group projects. Due to time crunches, final projects are a common replacement for final exams here at GTL which I can safely say is not necessarily better, just a trade off. Other students munch on their PAULS lunches, provided by the GTL staff to help us get through this tiring week.

Nonetheless, everyone is busy studying here. Many people actually refrained from traveling this past weekend to continue studying for their difficult exams, so it’s pretty clear that finals week is not all that different at GTL. Just maybe a smaller group of people still suffering through the miserable test week with some good friends. 

 

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