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Summertime studies

An international program offering hands-on, interdisciplinary projects that prepare students for real-world issues facing engineers in their home country is sure to attract high-quality attendees. And when it offers exposure to new cultures and novel educational methods, it attracts the best and brightest. In its fourth year, the University of Missouri’s King Abdulaziz University Internship for Engineering students has the formula down pat.

KAU students pose for a photo by a fountain and tiger statue.

The six week-long internship saw 24 students from King Abdulaziz University (KAU) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, come to Columbia to learn and work on projects as part of a curriculum designed by MU Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Professor and Distingushed Adjunct Professor with KAU, Ahmed Sherif El-Gizawy. The program utilizes project based learning (PBL), which is a method of education that teaches students skills by allowing them to work through complex, real-world challenges. Photo by Amy Parris.

The six week-long internship saw 24 students from King Abdulaziz University (KAU) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, come to Columbia to learn and work on projects as part of a curriculum designed by MU Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Professor and Distingushed Adjunct Professor with KAU, Ahmed Sherif El-Gizawy. The program utilizes project based learning (PBL), which is a method of education that teaches students skills by allowing them to work through complex, real-world challenges.

“I have a program that starts first with an overview of some of the key skills needed in product development such as digital technology for design and manufacturing, measurements and control techniques. … Then we teach them the modern design process, how industry designs engineering systems. We divide visiting students into multidisciplinary groups (to work on projects) because that’s how the industry works,” El-Gizawy said.

The goal is to build the students’ proficiency in the engineering design process, quality by design, computer-aided engineering, characterization of engineering materials’ performance, high precision measurements, digital control and automation, computer numerical control manufacturing, direct digital manufacturing and more.

“There are some skills that they focus on here more than we do in Saudi Arabia, like 3D printing, numerical simulation and design verification methods that we don’t really focus on in Saudi Arabia,” KAU mechanical engineering major Hammam Niyazi said. “There it’s mostly based on manufacturing and design, old-fashioned stuff.”

El-Gizawy has worked with KAU Engineering Dean and MU alumnus Professor Abdul Raheem Abdul Rahman Kinsara to create projects that touch upon current engineering needs in Saudi Arabia. One of this year’s projects involved design and building a steel bridge. Design of Steel structures is a growing industry in Saudi Arabia because of the growth of the nation’s high-speed rail industry. The curriculum El-Gizawy develops typically carries over to capstone projects for MU and KAU College of Engineering seniors in the next academic year.

The students selected for the program have to meet rigorous standards. Only top students in terms of grade-point average combined with high scores on an English language proficiency test earn the chance to head to Columbia for the summer internship. The competition for slots is fierce and includes students from several engineering backgrounds, including civil and environmental, mechanical and aerospace, electrical and computer, industrial and manufacturing systems engineering.

The program also provides a wonderful cultural experience both for the Saudi Arabian students and the MU students.  “They want their engineers to be more global, to interact with different countries, particularly the United States,” El-Gizawy explained.  “We bring some of our students, both male and female, to work with the Saudis. We started that practice last year; it’s very effective.

Beyond cultural benefits, the funding received from the program helps El-Gizawy enhance lab infrastructure, pilot possible capstone projects for MU students and enhance the College’s reputation abroad.

“MU is recognized as a good comprehensive university and a good place to send their graduate students. This is a good way to promote our graduate program internationally,” he said.

For a photo album detailing some of the highlights of the program, click here