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2017 Engineering/MBA Student Blog

Munich: Heart and Soul

10 May 2017

by heha223

Friends and family, Hello!
After just a few hiccups, our dual degree class has made it to Munich, Germany! We toured around the town and learned about the heart (Beer Gardens) and soul (Nymphenburg Palace) of Munich. First, we learned that any town in the state of Bayern must have three staples: a church, a Maypole and a brewery. We were able to see plenty of churches and beer gardens today as well as the freshly erected white and blue Maypole. Our first stop was Nymphenburg Palace (below) where we admired the nearly half mile long mansion and gardens which were built in honor of a former princess and her newly born son. Our great tour guide, Hildren, explained to us that this particular palace was not destroyed in WWII and thus has not been rebuilt like many of the buildings around the city; she then referred to the palace as the soul of the city. Next, we drove by the Olympic park of the 1972 summer Olympics. We also toured around BMW’s headquarters and dreamed about where our future careers may take us-working as BMW engineers or maybe just driving one around town. We ended the day in the city center listening to the Cuckoo clock, Rathaus-Glockenspiel, and visiting the world famous Hofbrauhaus. The group is very tired tonight after traveling all day but happy to be beginning our adventures together.

We’ll be up early tomorrow to learn more German history and visit nearby Dachau.


Nymphenburg Palace, Munich 


Past and Present

11 May 2017

by heha223

“To honor the dead and admonish the living”

We explored the memorial site at the Dachau concentration camp this morning and you can see the quote above, in German, on the statue below. Also below is a picture of an original watchtower standing behind foundations of barracks that were torn down in the mid-60s. Thirty four barracks were constructed at this work camp and meant to hold 200 men; near the end of the war, it is believed each one held up to 2,000. We learned much about the ascension of the 3rd Reich and the destruction of a people and eventual demise of the entire empire. We ended the tour at the Dachau memorial museum with conclusive remarks from Hildren about how the people of the area are both remembering and recovering from the devastation.
Back in Munich, the group split up to enjoy the May sunshine at close by beer gardens. We all feel honored to have remembered the importance of the history memorialized at the site and then feel the energy of modern day life in Munich.

“To honor the dead and admonish the living”

Guard stand behind barrack foundations


Businesses 1 & 2

12 May 2017

by heha223

Today was the first of our business visits! We started the morning at GE Global at one of their 8 research headquarters. We heard from Dr. Dietmar Tourbier, Technology Leader for Europe. He walked us through the many business segments of the corporation giving insights of each industry and throwing out pop quizzes reminding us of our undergraduate days. He then speculated that the next major feat to overcome for future technology is the material and physical invention of better energy storage.
For lunch, we explored the nearby town of Garching which was charming and much slower pace than downtown Munich.
We then visited the Technical University of Munich and felt more at home than we may have expected with the bustling students and mechanical engineering laboratories. The group was shown around the Institute for Machine Tools and Industrial Management where we specifically heard from students researching: Lean manufacturing in truck assembly, robotics, battery cell production and friction press welding. The iwb (acronym for the university’s German name) students were then able to answers many of our questions on the differences between American and German education systems.

Some of the group waiting to hear from the iwb students. 

We then headed downtown for a group dinner at Ratskeller in the city center. The restaurant was beautiful and ornate, especially for being in the basement of the city hall! The weather has held out for us this week so we were able to split up and explore more of the city on foot as well. Some students even climbed 306 stairs to reach the best views in the city.

View of the Alps from the top of St  Peter’s cathedral. 


Startups and Sunshine

13 May 2017

by heha223

Our second round of business trips took us down a much less technical yet very eye opening path. We visited the now global startup IDEO where we were encouraged to “draw” on our own desires for a product and then consult with our classmates to discover theirs. Our speaker shared with us that his experience has made him realize that consultations are driven by people and their stories. He and his colleagues aim to gather the root motivations, wants, and needs of their selective clients through several interview sessions and simple informational meetings. We summarized the session by brainstorming IDEO’s ways of creative thinking and design into our own career paths.
We stayed in the metro area for lunch and were able to explore the farmers’ market and shops before heading to nearby startup Apaleo for our last business visit in Munich. Apaleo is a software platform for hospitality entities that will go live by the end of the year. The group engaged in active conversation with two of the company’s founders and code-writers about the realities of entrepreneurship and the start up industry in Europe as a whole. The group immersed ourselves in Germany’s culture while sipping beers and listening to our hosts explain that startups must first have solid founding partners and then set a vision followed by discussing where to go with the business plan next.
Again, we have lucked out with the weather forecast in the city and you can see us all smiling in front of the memorial arch below.


Day trip to Salzburg

13 May 2017

by heha223

What another beautiful day! The group traveled to Salzburg, Austria, the land of the sound of music. We were so thankful for the sunshine and warmth after a forecast of thunderstorms and even a delayed train. We arrived in Salzburg by noon and quickly strolled through the sights of ‘Do, Re, Mi’ while learning the facts and exaggerations of the Hollywood movie starring the von Trapp family. Heading further into the city, we saw many churches and were especially blown away by the cathedral, pictured below.

The cathedral, only so named when it is the bishop’s church, has been destroyed eight times in its history and completely rebuilt three times, the latest in 1959 after reopening from restorations after the war.
We rode the incline train up to the fortress on Monk’s Mountain and were breath taken by the clear skies and beautiful city below. We learned the fortress was a tactical safe-haven for the townspeople and had never been overtaken by force. The group made our way through and around the fortress snapping perfect pictures all along the way.
We are all happy to have had such great business visits, experiences and weather in Munich! We are looking forward to continuing our journey to the Czech Republic tomorrow morning.

Festung Hohensalzburg atop Monchsberg


Welcome to Prague

14 May 2017

by heha223

Hello from the Czech Republic and Happy Mother’s Day!
After a long but beautiful bus ride across Germany to the Czech capital of Prague, we met with our new tour guide Jitka. She introduced us immediately to the most famous site of the city, Prague Castle. We toured the castle including St. Vitus Cathedral, which took over 600 years to complete, as well as the oldest church in the country. We were met with sweeping panoramic views of the city below and later the fantastic skyline of the castle as we enter the modern city.
We finished up the night on a beautiful dinner cruise on the river. We are looking forward to more sunshine, business visits and walking around the city tomorrow.


Airplanes and Helicopters

15 May 2017

by heha223

Today we visited two more businesses: LA Composites and Bell Helicopter. We were able to tour around both with our company representatives who shared their knowledge all along the way. First, we learned about the nearly weightless composite material door pieces LA Composites hand manufactures for airplanes (pictures below). Airbus is their largest customer and they are Airbus’s only supplier for this pertinent part. In this just one location, LA Composites holds about 12% of the market. With this pressure on such a small company, we did discuss privately the opportunity for efficiency improvements throughout the plant based on our freshly taught Lean Six Sigma processes. We were perplexed and intrigued as we listened to the specific engineering processes as well as the business operations it takes to run this unique company. Just as intriguing was the presentation and tour of Bell Helicopter. The American company conducts business at this location through a small team of employees who perform maintenance, detail work and delivery service to private customers as well as military and police force orders. We learned about how the business operates and what the helicopter market is like but also received advice on working for a globalized company. We were challenged to make the differentiation between a company who operates in countries around the world and a company who is truly globalized.
Now with six business visits complete, it is even more clear how our dual-degrees and industry preparation will fit into this global market. We’ve seen just how important it is to understand both the engineering behind your complex product and the ever changing business market you operate in.

LA Composites: The cutting board. Each piece of material is cut by hand then fitted to a door mold and cured to harden.

LA Composites: The group listening to our company representative beside their giant autoclave. 

We are free for the rest of the evening to enjoy this beautify city.


Past, Present and Future

16 May 2017

by heha223

Today we wrapped up our business visits in Prague by exploring ELI Beamlines in both reality and virtual reality. Extreme Light Infrastructure is a research institute sponsored by the European Union’s Institute of Physics. The site was demolished 6 years ago, rebuilt from the ground up and set to be in full operation by 2018. The laboratories are currently empty but soon will be stocked with lasers and mirrors and equipment; we were still able to enjoy their beautiful campus and tour around the facility. We listened to lectures from the director of the site, a technology transfer expert and a third-party consulting project manager. Each had unique information to share about the challenges of doing business in relatively new democracy in a global market with many prejudices as well as the overall focus on science and technology across the EU. Again, business and engineering met in each of the presentations we heard and we were able to fully engage with the representatives and increase our knowledge on the industry. The lectures were of course interesting but the opportunity to explore the laboratories through virtual reality software was another experience all together! Each of us were able to put on virtual reality glasses and maneuver through the laser labs that are currently under construction. In the future, the VR software will be available to clients to plan experiments in their home offices before coming to the site and performing the tests physically.

We spent the afternoon touring the Old Jewish Town and the Old Town Square. We were intrigued and reflective when hearing the history of Jewish families through Hitler’s Germany and the communist regime. Now a beautiful site with shops and high energy, the area was truly a ghetto throughout World War Two and was then evacuated of all Jewish people. Most astonishing, Hitler had ordered no damage to the city because he wanted to reserve the space for a museum of an extinct people. With great sacrifice from many, this never happened and instead we are all able to reflect and honor those who suffered through this time. Today, the Old Jewish Town has no lines, no closed gates and no walls surrounding it. Still, the people of Prague remember and we were able to understand that a little bit more this afternoon.
We had a long but very educational day and we are looking forward to another beautiful evening and our free time tomorrow!

Oldest European synagogue, located in the Old Jewish Town. This was the only building not torn down during the refurbishment of the area.



17 May 2017

by heha223

I’ve said it before, but what another beautiful day! The weather was outstanding for our free day and we split up to explore the city. Some explored the botanical garden and vineyard, others hiked to the famous monk’s brewery for a view of the city or up to Prague’s Eiffel Tower replica, The Petrin Tower. Most of us crossed over the famous Charles Bridge to see the John Lennon wall. We learned from Jitka yesterday that the wall was very prevalent in the city’s history because it was where people would gather to speak out against the communist regime. At the time, gathering in public was forbidden but young people choose this spot because it is located opposite the French embassy. Here, they were somewhat safe from the secret police because, if they were confronted brutally, the French people would have been able to document it. The power behind the wall is in freedom of speech and it is clear it still represents that today because it is ever-changing with words, phrases and images for hope, peace and love.

We are looking forward to see what Rome has in store for us!


Ciao da Roma!

18 May 2017

by heha223

We arrived in Rome early this afternoon after smooth traveling. We went straight to the Vatican City with our new tour guide Giuseppe. The size and beauty of the architecture of the city square and St. Peter’s Basilica is hard to describe with words. We heard a lot of history about the city-state and the church and learned that the Vatican is the smallest recognized city-state in the world. The city is very bustling but Giuseppe was able to give us the condensed version of a city tour from our bus on the way to the hotel. We know Rome has so much for us to explore so we are looking forward to getting to know this city much better!


SAP and Enel

19 May 2017

by heha223

Two more business visits today proved yet again to us the importance of merging engineering and business as well as global commerce.
First, we were shocked to learn that SAP is a data processing platform that touches 74% of every transaction revenue around the world. Our lectures touched on the technical aspects of SAP operations but we also focused on the difference between business in America and Italy. We heard advice from the COO of SAP Italia and the head salesman of the region on dealing with American business people being too formal and to remember that not all cultures are just like American culture. The visit was very enjoyable, we shared laughs and were able to network with the execs and understood a little more about the informality yet pride in Italian culture.
In the afternoon we visited Enel, a highly integrated energy company. We shared our definitions of sustainability and the curiosities we had on the topic. We then heard about sustainability and the efforts of the company to innovate and integrate sustainable projects in developing countries.
We are wishing a Happy Birthday to Zach Vagedes and a goodnight!

COO of SAP Italia sharing her views on the company and Italian business as a whole 


When in Rome

20 May 2017

by heha223

The rain caught up with us today while touring the “open air museum” that is Rome. We threw our coins into Trevi Fountain making wishes then watched the rain fall through the dome of the Pantheon.

The storm finally let up as we reached the coliseum. Our amazing tour guide shared facts, stories and jokes through the coliseum and Roman Forum. Even though the coliseum is still striking to us, we learned that we are seeing just 20-30% of the original structure. Our guide quizzed us throughout the day on what we saw and why things may have been the way they were and how certain features of the structures may have worked during operation.

The Forum was a map of time and space and we walked through both as we toured around the site and learned about the different buildings throughout history. Rome has layers and layers of history, literally. The Forum is segmented by height, thus showing the age of particular structures. We took in panoramic views of the entire city, new and old, from the top of the Forum. The group is very tired from the rain and walking so we’re looking forward to some free time tomorrow.


Do as the Romans do

21 May 2017

by heha223

We had a free day today! Most of the group did as the Romans do on hot days and spent it at the beach. The sun may have a burned a few of us but the views and the waves were definitely worth it. We can’t believe tomorrow is our last day as a group but we are looking forward to our last round of business visits.


Sperlonga beach


Up, up and away!

22 May 2017

by heha223

Our last day of the program was spent at two aerospace companies: Thales Alenia Space and Boeing Italy. First, we were lectured on the fleet of satellites that are in orbit around the earth known as constellations. We were able to tour the clean room at the facility and see the opening from storage to operation of a real satellite. The group stood just inches away from a satellite that will reach Mars while our representatives explained the complex honeycomb figuration of the satellite that was just about 9 square feet. After lunch, we visited the Italian offices of Boeing and listened to a wonderful presentation on the market position, trends and expectations of the aerospace industry both commercial and in defense. Our speaker, director of Boeing in Southern Europe, was so willing to answer our questions on Lean manufacturing, an agile workplace and some specifics of Boeing operations.

As our trip is coming to an end, it is easy to reflect on the amazing companies we’ve visited, the people we’ve met and the topics we’ve discussed. We have seen the value of our engineering and MBA degrees repetitively and now we are even more equipped to take on the next steps in each of our careers.

On behalf of my classmates, we want to say a huge thank you to everyone who made this possible, especially Mrs. Kim Sayre and Mr. Jim Stuckert.

Safe travels to all of my classmates. Goodnight and goodbye!