Engineering in a Global Context

MME 4490 class at the Daimler Mercedes-Benz plant in Wörth, Germany - May 13, 2019

Western Engineering News | June 5, 2019

In today’s increasingly globalized world, it has become essential to attain a broader vision and a better understanding of other societies and cultures. Engineers often work for multi-national companies and face opportunities that require global awareness and the ability to work across different cultures.

Western Engineering’s technical elective course, “Engineering in a Global Context” (MME 4490), provides students with an interest in manufacturing the opportunity to internationalize their student experience and, in turn, gain global awareness. 

The course was conceived as an additional collaboration between Western University and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), one of the leading European schools in Engineering. Western’s partnership with KIT began in 2012 with the creation of the Fraunhofer Project Centre, a not-for-profit partnership between Western and Germany’s Fraunhofer Society.

“We’re excited to intensify the extent of the collaboration that already exists between Western Engineering and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology,” said Mechanical and Materials Engineering Associate Professor and MME 4490 course coordinator Remus Tutunea-Fatan. “In addition to our ongoing collaborative research efforts, this course sets the premises for new partnerships also at teaching and undergraduate levels.”

Offered for the second year in a row, MME 4490 took place at Karlsruhe, Germany between May 10 and May 24, 2019. Over two weeks, students participated in a blend of in-class sessions, field trips, and social and cultural activities.

The busy two-week schedule includes six academic modules on topics relevant to manufacturing, ranging from composite fabrication to Industry 4.0, and including numerous field trips to renowned local manufacturers such as Daimler, Mercedes and SEW Eurodrive, as well as sightseeing visits to well-known nearby touristic sites such as Heidelberg or Strasbourg.

Through its unique design and the breadth of topics covered, the course is expected to increase students’ awareness of advanced and green initiatives in manufacturing as well as the challenges faced by today’s global manufacturing context.

For third-year mechanical engineering student Cenk Sen, MME 4490 had that exact effect.

“This course made me realize how small my vision was concerning the engineering world,” said Sen. "The prestigious facilities we visited enlightened me in terms of how widespread mechanical engineering is, and I even got some ideas for my capstone project.”

MME Assistant Professor Aaron Price serves as the course instructor, travelling with the students to Germany and taking part in all aspects of the trip.

“Through my involvement in this course over the past two years, I have observed first-hand how this experience has been truly transformative for informing our students about the design and implementation of advanced manufacturing techniques, and the critical role they play in our increasingly globalized marketplace,” said Price.

While the partnership is between Western and KIT, MME 4490 is open to all undergraduate students with an interest in manufacturing from all Ontario universities. This year’s class included 14 students – seven year-three mechanical engineering students from Western and seven year-three mechanical engineering students from McMaster University. Western Engineering hopes to expand the course in the coming years by further collaborating with other Ontario universities such as University of Toronto and Queen’s University.

To help reduce the student costs associated with the course, supplemental funds were provided by Western's Network for Industry 4.0 (WIN 4.0), Western International, Western Engineering and the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering. As well, students have the opportunity to apply for travel awards coordinated by Western International and made available to those participating in international faculty-led programs.

“We certainly believe that this initiative will broaden our students’ perspective on global economy and market, while also exposing them to an academic and sociocultural environment that is different than our own,” said Professor and MME Department Chair Tony Straatman. “Engineering education should not be restricted to a lecture room or in a lab, but also out in the field on a local, national and international scale.”

For more details on “MME 4490: Engineering in a Global Context,” visit the course webpage, as provided through Western’s International Experience Portal.