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Engineering Student Exchange: Teams-based Collaborative for Innovative Design

(A U.S.-Russia Peer-to-Peer Dialogue Program project)

Innovation, largely through science and engineering, will be the primary driver of the future economy and job creation (Gathering Storm Report). Globalization, through which nations, economies, cultures and institutions are becoming more intertwined and connected, changed the paradigm drastically making both global aptitude and international experience and a set of “soft” skills, such as leadership qualities, cross-cultural communication, global critical thinking and creative entrepreneurial mentality, almost requisite competencies for an engineer of the 21st century (Committee on Engineering Education, N.A.E., Educating the Engineer of 2020).

Polycom videoconfere

This project, “Engineering Student Exchange: Teams-based Collaborative for Innovative Design,” aims to develop a bilateral, team-based exchange program for engineering students at MU and St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University (SPbSPU). The project will engage teams of Russian and U.S. students in critical thinking and problem-solving activities that allow to translate their theoretical knowledge into a practical application and to address practical, real-life needs in a motivating, competitive environment. The collaborative will be based on teams in selected subject areas currently active in the College of Engineering at the University of Missouri. The project initiated by the International Technology Commercialization Institute (ITCI Director and project PI Vlad Likholetov) also will expose participating undergraduate students to the best practices in technology transfer and commercialization in both countries, which are utilized to develop breakthrough innovative products.

For this project, ITCI has selected two MU College of Engineering student teams – the Formula SAE team (faculty adviser Marty Walker and student president Lauren Wertz) responsible for the design and development of the SAE Formula race car and the Mizzou Eco-Racing team (faculty adviser Rick Whelove and student president Malek Gentry) building fuel-efficient vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells (Tigergen III) and electric batteries (Batt-Cat). The selection was made because of the multi-disciplinary nature of design work in each team, increased opportunities for Russian collaborators to get involved and well-organized international competition events that attract broad attention and interest from universities, industry and the general public and also are widely publicized in the media.

Polycom videoconfere

The highlight of the project will be reciprocal visits of student participants to St. Petersburg in January and the U.S. in Spring 2015. The exchange will include an educational module – a series of invited presentations on topics of innovation, entrepreneurship and technology transfer — as well as site visits to “innovation ecosystem” facilities and startup communities. Joint social and cultural activities will also be a part of the program.

The project outcomes will promote the program goals of peer-to-peer dialog and allow participants to reap the benefits of international teamwork, improved multicultural understanding and communication skills. Working across disciplinary and geographic boundaries, they will learn to apply knowledge to solve challenging problems, promote innovation and creativity by reaching out to extended communities and gain valuable personal and professional development skills by learning from each other.

Pictures: A kick-off Polycom video conference between MU and SpbSPU student teams, November 13, 2014.