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Students return from engineering studies in Spain

Engineers in SpainThirteen Lamar University students in the College of Engineering traveled to Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV) in Tarragona, Spain recently to study contemporary global issues in engineering management under the leadership of University Professor Jerry Lin.

“This is a niche area that has not yet been part of the current curricula in the engineering programs at Lamar University,” said Lin, who is also the senior academic director of graduate programs in the College of Engineering and director of LU’s Center for Advances in Water and Air Quality.

“It takes more than just technical expertise to make broader impacts to the global community. Engineers of the next generation must have the knowledge and skills in engineering management to assess demand, manufacturing and technological needs in the global market,” he said.

Students earned three course credit hours in Global Issues in Engineering Management, ENGR 4301, as well as a management certificate from the Escola Tècnica Superior d’Enginyeria Química at the URV. Jeff Palis, director of study abroad programs, said URV was chosen for its top-notch facilities, strong STEM academics, ties to international engineering companies, and location in Tarragona, the home of the largest petrochemical complex in southern Europe.

Engineers in Spain“We wanted our students to gain experience in the type of place and doing the sort of activities they might actually be sent abroad for on a job assignment,” Palis said.

During the course, students were assigned a case that required them to work in teams, incorporating the knowledge they gained from theoretical sessions and technical visits throughout the trip into unique solutions for the projects. They presented their work on their final day in Tarragona.

“For our project we had to take two countries—Spain and another of our choice—and perform a market analysis to see which would be better to first, produce in, and second, sell in,” Nasim Abedelwahab, senior mechanical engineering major said.

“My group chose to act as a consulting firm consulting an electric car startup. We had to conduct research and draw a conclusion from the data, and then we defended our findings on the final day. It was very interesting because not many of us had experience with this kind of work!” he said.

Lin said that combining project teams with international travel provided an in-depth learning experience still rare in the field of engineering, and students gained much more than technical skills.

Engineers in Spain“The cultural experience is also a special treat for the students in the program—Tarragona, formerly Tarraco during the Roman Republic era, is a beautiful coastal city on the Mediterranean with a rich history.” 

Trip activities included excursions to Barcelona and the Ebre Delta, an afternoon among Roman ruins to learn about engineering innovations dating back to 25 B.C. and visits to local industry and port facilities. 

Carlos Caballero, senior mechanical engineering and physics major, says the industry visits were a terrific component to the course.

“I particularly enjoyed the visit to the Port of Tarragona, where we learned about their logistics and expansion projects, and to the Institute for Applied Automotive Research where they’re doing groundbreaking work in automobile safety,” he said.

“The cultural activities were also great! Looking at Roman ruins around Tarragona and visiting the Park Guell and La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona were among the highlights,” said Caballero.

According to Brittney Crossley, coordinator of study abroad and exchange programs, this trip was a break from the typical study abroad curricula.

Engineers in Spain“The science, technology, engineering and math fields are often underrepresented in study abroad despite the fact that they are some of the most popular majors on our campus,” she said.

“Gaining international experience as an engineering major is invaluable, especially if they want to work for a multinational companies like Exxon-Mobil, Huntsman, and others. This trip gave them that experience.” 

But to Lin, one of the most valuable experiences was spending time as a group.

“During the two weeks in Tarragona, we gathered together many times for dinner, where we chatted about topics from academics and career preparation to religions and politics, even personal experiences,” Lin said. “This was truly an extraordinary group of Lamar engineering students with drastically diverse backgrounds. Quite frankly, I am not sure if I taught them more or if I learned more from the students in the program.”