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Category: Field Trips

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.

 
 

For the Love of Chocolate

Written by guest bloggers Amira Abadir and Tiffany Chu.

Hidden away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Metz in a small residential area: a brown, modern storefront stands with the smell of chocolate wafting through the street. Early one Friday morning, a van of unassuming Georgia Tech students arrived there at Fabrice Dumay Maître Chocolatier.

Photo courtesy of Fabrice Dumay social media.

As our group entered, we were first shown the main storefront, which housed a counter with dozens of flavors of bonbons, or candies, along with shelves lined with varying displays of chocolate bars and gift packages. Towards the back of the store was a large window that peeked into a large, gleaming white kitchen. The window, as we were later told by Mr. Dumay, is there so that his customers can be certain that his candies are produced in-house.

After piling into the kitchen, Mr. Dumay told us a bit about himself. He spent 7 years as a chocolate patissier in the Vosges mountains, then 12 years as a chocolatier before opening his own store. He considers himself to be the only “master chocolatier” in Metz making artisanal chocolates.

Mr. Dumay explained to us the process of chocolate making from cacao seeds into cocoa beans, cocoa powder, and cocoa butter, with the aid of samples. We sampled the three traditional types of chocolate in his shop – dark, milk, and white – each 

with varying combinations of sugar, vanilla, and milk. The last bar chocolate we sampled was new: blonde chocolate. Blonde chocolate emerged just 2-3 years ago and is rare to find in stores. It is a special white chocolate that took 7 years to develop has been “smoked” or cooked until the sugar has caramelized with an even, smooth texture.

We next moved on to other chocolates such as the pralines and ganaches, beautifully crafted with perfectly creamy and crisp texture.

Finally, we witnessed M. Dumay’s legendary house specialties – liqueur filled chocolates, chardons, that come in spiky colorful balls of every color. We tried the raspberry and mirabelle liqueur chardons and were blown away by the strength, flavor, and freshness of the artisanally produced chocolates – quite different from industrially produced chardons. M. Dumay sells approximately 3 tons of these high-quality chardons every year!

Throughout the trip, Mr. Dumay’s passion for chocolate was evident. Before visiting his shop, we wondered: what makes chocolate artisanal? Modern processed chocolate – the candy bars we buy at the grocery store – is a product of the Industrial Revolution. By contrast, artisanal chocolate is an intense labor of love. While many corporate candymakers have found ways to automate the chocolate-making process, people like Mr. Dumay make as much of their product by hand as possible. Dedicating their lives to the art of chocolate making, the master chocolatier’s artisanal chocolate is an entry point for people of all cultures to share and enjoy the heart of chocolate, made with love.

This was a field trip of the Georgia Tech-Lorraine class HTS 2100, “Science and Technology in the Modern World: Regions of Europe.” For more information, see Georgia Tech-Lorraine’s website, www.lorraine.gatech.edu.

BDE Skis: The Best Bonding Experience for GTL

Last night, a whole gaggle of GTL students piled onto a bus and ventured forth to embark on a snowy winter adventure. Snow, in 60 degree weather you ask? Well, the wonderful BDE (a sort of the student council of GTL) organized a trip to Snow Hall, one of the largest indoor skiing facilities anywhere. We all chatted excitedly as the bus sped through the countryside. The group, a mix of beginners and experienced skiers and snowboarders, were bristling with anticipation as we entered the facility. The French-speaking students took the lead as we spoke to the friendly staff to acquire our skis and snowboards.

After acquiring my skis, boots, poles, and helmet, I was able to proceed to the facility. Temperature-controlled at exactly 0° Celsius and covered in powder, the facility was quite vast. Built up the side of the hill boasting a beginner slope, intermediate slope and terrain park, two ski lifts and a friendly staff, it was crazy to imagine that all of this fit inside a warehouse. The beginners headed to the bunny slope and the old timers headed toward the intermediate.

Watching the way the GTL community came together to help the new skiers and snowboarders was truly amazing. From helping them pick the best equipment, to making sure they knew how to use the lifts, to teaching them the basics, it was truly great to see everyone so helpful to each other. In the words of brand new skier, Mr. Ben Frumpkin, “This was a crazy amount of fun.”

When people fell, GTL acquaintances were there to help them up and get their equipment back together. Everyone was friendly, waving and cheering each other on as they passed on the ski lift. There were friendly competitions on who could get the most air on the small bumps on the slope. The BDE staff, especially Zivan, who helpfully handed out and collected cards, and sprinted between the bus and the desk to make sure that everything had been returned properly.

My favorite experience was watching the beginners try the intermediate hill for the first time. Their friends went right behind them to make sure they were all right. Teeth bared and leaning forward they traveled slowly down. Their faces full of determination, and pride at what they had accomplished. I think everyone shared in the excitement of these newbies learning a new skill. It was also really awesome to see some members trying out the terrain park, going over massive jumps and grinding on rails.

All in all, I am very proud to say that I love BDE and I love the GTL community. We have definitely been brought closer together.

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!”

 

A Field Trip to Verdun

This past week GTL students took our first field trip of the semester. During this field trip we traveled to Verdun in northeastern France to the location of the Battle of Verdun.

For those of us not well versed in major battles that occurred during the First World War, the battle of Verdun was one of the largest battles during WWI. The battle was fought between the French and Germans from February 21 to until December 20, 1916. By the end of this battle the casualties and losses totaled nearly 500,000 on the French side and 400,000 on the German side.

One of the Verdun cemeteries outside of the Douaumont Ossuary

One of the Verdun cemeteries outside of the Douaumont Ossuary

One of our first stops was Fort Douaumont, one of the largest forts that surround the city. The majority of the fort is located underground and as we walked further into the fort the living conditions of the solders could be seen immediately. It happened to be pouring down rain the day that we visited and the rain water had sunk into the fort covering the walls and floor and lowering the temperatures.

As the tour through the fort continued the guide mentioned that this was the place where the soldiers rested for a short time before they were expected to go back out to the front lines. At each new discovery it became apparent how dedicated the soldiers were to their cause and how much they sacrificed for that cause.

After leaving the fort we drove to the Douaumont Ossuary. Throughout the ride the countryside could be seen and it still bore the results of the war. Everywhere we looked there were huge divots in the ground where shells had hit during the war. Even after a century the changes and effects of the war could still be seen on the land.

The Douaumont Ossuary is the site of the final resting place of many of the unidentified soldiers from the war. We were told about the rooms where 130,000 unidentified soldiers from both the German and French side that were located right below our feet. This Ossuary was built by Charles Ginisty, the Bishop of Verdun, from donations that he gathered to create a cemetery for the bones of the fallen, and a place for families of MIA soldiers to come mourn their loss.

At the end of this day all the GTL students walked away with a different understanding of what the war meant. Viewing the living conditions of the soldiers, the battlefields, and the cemeteries makes WWI more tangible to us. It is far different to read about the numbers and events of WWI in a textbook compared to seeing firsthand the life of a foot solider.

Shell blast holes in the countryside

Shell blast holes in the countryside

One of my fellow students put the feeling that we were all feeling, but didn’t know quite how to express, into words:

“There is nothing quite like climbing out of the damp darkness, stepping into the sun that is just breaking through the clouds that have been hanging over it since morning, and scaling steep steps up the side of the fort. Standing atop the highest point in the countryside with the wind in your hair ….and realizing you’re standing on the bones of thousands of men that never made it out.”

 

Field Trip Chronicles: La Grange aux Pains

This past weekend my History & Sociology class took a special field trip to La Grange aux Pains. La Grange aux Pains is a boulangerie and pâtisserie located in Montigny-les-Metz, France, owned by husband and wife Priscilla and Rémi Pruvost. The bakery has achieved tremendous success since its opening in 2009, and is frequented by local and loyal customers from surrounding areas. It is the ideal spot for one craving a fresh baguette or pastry on their way to work. La Grange aux Pains is recognized as a boulangerie and pâttiserie because each day, everything item is baked fresh, (Fun fact: Large bakery enterprises such as Paul cannot call themselves a boulangerie or pâttiserie for this very reason), from chocolate covered croissants to curry chicken paninis to mini beignets. And that’s what makes La Grange aux Pains all the more special.

Our trip began with a detailed tour of the facility. Priscilla led us to the back room of the bakery, where they receive daily shipments of ingredients and supplies. Next, we entered the main baking room, where all of the magic happens. We watched as two apprentices prepared croissants from scratch, folding triangular pieces of dough into perfect half-crescent moon shapes. Granted, all of our mouths were watering at this point, and our tour had just begun. Next we were shown the different pieces of machinery used in the baking process. A giant 3-level oven took up a large portion of the room. Priscilla and Rémi use the oven to bake baguettes, bagels, and other various forms of bread. Other machines in the room included a spiral mixer in the corner, along with a dough cutter and a baguette moulder placed along a table. These machines, now used frequently to help speed up production, did not exist some time ago. French bakers hand-crafted their bread and pastries with art and precision, often beginning the baking process at early and odd hours. Modern machinery has since replaced the need for so much manual labor. However, it is still necessary that skilled bakers like Priscilla and Rémi are present. For example, water temperature is an extremely important factor to consider when baking bread, as it can affect bread consistency and size. Often times, a baker is needed to go outside and get a feel for the weather. Depending on whether it’s hot, rainy, or cold, the baker will then adjust the water temperature accordingly. This is certainly not, and may never be, a job for an industrial machine.

Next, Priscilla led the group to a smaller room, where we ate samples of some of her staple bread and pastries. She pointed out the key differences in two of the baguettes she served us, regarding their shape, size, texture, and color. One baguette had been hand-made (formally called a banette), and the other had been made by a machine. We could barely tell the difference as Americans, but according to Priscilla, the French can point them out quite easily. After lunch at the Botanical Garden of Metz (ham sandwiches and chicken paninis prepared by none other than Priscilla), we returned to La Grange aux Pains for a special baking lesson. Yes! We got to bake our very own baguettes and bagels from scratch! Each of us found a spot alongside a long, wooden table, fresh dough in hand, and watched Priscilla and Rémi as they gave step-by step instructions on to how to shape our soon-to-be bread. The best part? We got to take everything we baked home with us! And to top off an already wonderful baking experience, Priscilla gave each of us a parting gift: a loaf of sweet bread topped with tiny white chocolate chips.

I’ve been on some pretty cool field trips in life, but I have to say, my experience at La Grange aux Pains takes the cake (pun intended). How many students can say they baked fresh bread, under the instruction of two highly-skilled French bakers, at an authentic boulangerie and pâtteserie this semester? Only fifteen, and I’m so thankful I was one of them! 

 

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