18 February 2021 | The EuroTech Universities decided to pick up momentum from the immense digitalisation efforts at all universities during the corona crisis. During the winter semester 2020/21, they offered selected virtual courses and student challenges for all EuroTech and EuroTeQ students. With student mobility limited and intercultural learning as relevant as ever, the pilot project was appreciated by students and staff.

The “EuroTech Digital Learning Initiative”, initiated and hosted by Technical University of Munich (TUM), started in October 2020 and just concluded this February. The aim to bridge physical mobility to the other alliance partners and invite our students to come together in a virtual exchange, was a full success.

EuroTech activities are anchored in five fast developing EuroTech Focus Areas. For the Digital Learning Initiative, the research communities were asked to pilot digital educational formats. Seed funding was offered by TUM, through the national European Universities co-funding of the German Academic Exchange Service DAAD and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

Virtual courses and student challenges

Some partner universities offered access to specialised online courses, such as “Introduction to Earth System Science” or “Global Geodetic Observing System and GNSS” in the realm of EuroTech’s new collaboration in Space and Earth Observation. Other courses had a more interdisciplinary nature, such as “Ethics of Responsibility: An Introduction to Applied Ethics”.

Two virtual challenges in the Focus Areas “Additive Manufacturing” and “Entrepreneurship & Innovation” offered interesting project work for student teams of all partners. Mentored by a professor in the field, the students had a lot of freedom to approach the challenge and compete for the best solution.

Additive manufacturing of a lower limb prosthesis – a frugal innovation approach

Rendering of a prosthesis foot design

Two project teams approached this challenge posed by Professor Peter Mayr from the TUM Chair of Materials Engineering of Additive Manufacturing. The students’ goal was to develop an innovative and resource efficient prototype that would provide numerous people with lower limb prostheses, especially in countries of the global south. The teams developed a concept that put a lot of value on a simple, fast and affordable design, which still guarantees high quality. The selection of material was a key element, as it is essential to select a suitable material based on the functional performance for the different parts. The TUM team was very happy with the ideas and performance of the two student groups.

All students successfully explored the possibilities of 3D printing of plastic and metal, in order to develop and produce a demonstrator leg prosthesis under conditions of an emerging country.

“I was fascinated by the enthusiasm and the creativity of the students as they tackled the challenge. The fun they had, working in an intercultural team, was inspiring.”

Professor Peter Mayr, TUM Chair of Materials Engineering of Additive Manufacturing

Entrepreneurship & Innovation: Guided by light

© Bart van Overbeeke

This challenge was hosted by TU/e innovation Space, under the responsibility of Professor Isabelle Reymen, and supported by the TU/e Intelligent Lighting Institute, Signify, and Team IGNITE. The aim of the challenge was to use interactive lighting to engage people in crowds, make them aware, and influence their behaviour. The international student team developed a concept for a bracelet to guide larger crowds of people to less crowded spaces and bars, creating a more pleasant or exciting atmosphere. Next to their invention, the students had to come up with a business case and market analysis, including a viable business model. One sincerely hopes that large events will again belong to the daily lives of students soon and that this lightning bracelet will find a real-life application.

Successful in international teams

Intercultural awareness and understanding are key for productive and trustful teamwork and overall success when working in a global environment. All participants of the student challenges were invited to join an intercultural training course alongside of their project work. This training was especially relevant as students only met online due to the pandemic. They were coached to acquire intercultural competences including team development, culture and its dimensions and influence on teamwork, as well as the basics of conflict management in an intercultural context. The students appreciated this additional offer and want to apply the learnings in physical and virtual mobility in the future.

Scaling up: EuroTeQ Engineering University

The EuroTech Digital Learning Initiative will be continued in the efforts of the EuroTeQ Engineering University. The EuroTech partners, together with TalTech from Estonia and CTU from the Czech Republic, will establish a joint engineering sciences study programme across different disciplines as well as across national and institutional boundaries. Granting access to digital courses and enhancing student mobility – be it physical or virtual – are key elements of the inter-university EuroTeQ Campus. Challenge-based formats are continued and rolled-out to students, vocational and professional learners in the EuroTeQ Colliders.

If you are interested to engage in our projects, please contact Maria-Valerie Schegk.

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