Students Benefit From College of Engineering’s British Connection

 
Bletchley Park

Students from the College of Engineering listen to a talk at Bletchley Park in England, where British code breakers cracked German communications during World War II.

Students are used to changing buildings between classes, but few ever go to the lengths of some students in the  College of Engineering.

Professors Roger Parsons, of the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering, and Michael Berry, of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, led a group of budding UT engineers for a few weeks of study and work in the United Kingdom.

Make no mistake, though, the trip was anything but leisurely.

“Our unique program in London combines the historical development of fundamental principles of engineering and computer science with the core material traditionally offered on the UT campus,” said Berry.

Students were able to pick two of three courses from thermodynamics, electrical circuits, and history of computing, with those six hours counting toward their technical elective requirements.

“Over the past two summers we have actually had four students finish up their studies while on the trip to London.” said Berry.

Visits were made to locations such as the British Science Museum and the London Museum of Water and Steam, where they saw demonstrations of some of the world’s oldest working steam engines.

Quizzes and follow-up discussions conducted after each visit tested what the students were learning from their experiences and relating what they’d seen back into their own foundations in engineering.

At the British Science Museum, for example, Parsons made sure students could talk about the development of technology—particularly thermodynamics and computing—and how it played into the courses they were taking on the trip.

“Planning excursions like these allows students access to historical sites key to the development of mechanical engineering and computer science,” said Parsons. “As a college, we are developing a suite of engineering courses that use the global experience in some way to enhance the engineering subject matter into a unique experience.”

Though not a specific focus of the trip, students were given the opportunity to visit culturally important locations, with a learning component worked in as part of the process.

Windsor Castle, Cambridge, and Bletchley Park, where Britain’s code breakers cracked the German “Enigma” code during World War II, were highlights of those stops, while a visit to the Prime Meridian in Greenwich afforded the group the chance to stand in two hemispheres at once.

“Students get a transportation pass and are told to take advantage of their surroundings,” said Parsons. “They can sleep when they get home.”

The program’s fee was $5,370—which included transportation, excursions, and accommodations—but financial help through UT’s study abroad programs and through a College of Engineering fellowship helped defray the cost, and organizers hope to signifcantly reduce the overall fee for next year.

Around a dozen people took part in the 2014 trip.

More information on the Engineering in London program can be found on the college’s website.

C O N T A C T :

David Goddard (865-974-0683, david.goddard@utk.edu)

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