KU engineering students plan Brazilian learning experience

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LAWRENCE — Fifteen students from the University of Kansas School of Engineering will have the chance in August to see how a burgeoning world power is handling rapid growth and a booming economy, while attempting to manage the impact on the environment.

The students from the Self Engineering Leadership Fellows Program will be in Brazil from Aug. 11-21, visiting the cities of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. They hope their experience provides valuable insight on new methods to deal with engineering challenges, and helps others on KU’s campus learn more about the culture, business practices and engineering strategies of South America’s largest country.

Each senior class in the SELF Program is charged with planning and implementing an experience that encompasses all engineering disciplines, as well as the pillars of the program, which include business, engineering, entrepreneurship, leadership, management and communication. The students selected to organize an information-gathering trip to Brazil because of its rapid economic growth and unique position of hosting two major worldwide sporting events in the next five years – the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.

“We’re really interested to learn more about how they’re going to handle hosting two of the world’s largest events,” said Garrett Scarlett, a SELF Fellow and senior in electrical engineering. “They have to undergo a lot of changes to modernize Rio, to get the infrastructure – things likes streets and sanitation – ready to handle all those people.”

The trip will focus on four areas that are at the forefront in Brazil: engineering expansion, environment, energy usage and economics. The Fellows plan to meet with companies that fall into those four categories – including Brazilian energy giant Petrobras, the third largest energy company in the world; Brazilian aircraft design and manufacturing company Embraer; Ford Motor Company, a trip coordinated with the help of Ford CEO and 1968 KU aeronautical and astronautical engineering graduate Alan Mulally; and state-owned Embrapa, which seeks feasible solutions for the sustainable development of Brazilian agribusiness.

In addition to the first-hand look at Brazil’s cutting-edge industry, the SELF students also will have the chance to see some of South America’s most iconic sights.

“We’re going for all the wonderful engineering aspects of the trip, but you can’t go and not see Christ the Redeemer or Sugarloaf Mountain,” said Sarah Elizabeth McCandless, a SELF Fellow and senior in aerospace engineering. “That’s sort of the whole purpose of an international trip – realizing there are different cultures, different places and being able to experience that at the same time. It’s a pivotal component of the entire experience.”

SELF Fellows plan to share their experience with fellow students and business leaders upon their return. The plan is to offer a campus-wide lecture series – most likely two talks in the fall semester and two more in the spring – that cover the four key areas they’ll focus on while in Brazil. In addition to the campus lectures, the students will meet with leaders from Kansas City-based engineering firm Black & Veatch.

“They want us to come and give a presentation about what we learned,” Scarlett said. “My contact there told me this is how his company learns, from our experiences. That’s how they stay current.”

Follow the Fellows as the travel through Brazil at their blog or on Twitter.

There will also be periodic updates available on the School of Engineering’s Facebook page.

The trip is made possible through gifts to KU Endowment from Frank and Barbara Becker, Simon McPherson, Pat and Brenda Oenbring, Bob and Susie Peebler, Mike and Joyce Shinn, Allyn and Jill Risley, General Electric, Ion Geophysical and Sabre Holdings Company, parent company of Travelocity.

Tue, 08/09/2011


Cody Howard

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Cody Howard

School of Engineering