The Places You’ll Go: E3 Students Explore Engineering in Europe

E3 students in HamburgBATON ROUGE, LA – The Greek Dramatist Euripides once said, “Experience, travel—these are an education in themselves.” LSU College of Engineering Instructor Paige Davis couldn’t agree more.

For three weeks every summer, Davis takes 16-20 LSU Engineering students to Germany through Encounter Engineering in Europe (E3), a study abroad program that allows students to learn about engineering while immersed in an unfamiliar culture.

“I enjoy it,” said Davis, who has served as E3 program director since its inception in 2010. “I love working with the students. It’s a great experience for them. I like that they are able to truly experience engineering, as well as learn about a new culture and form lasting friendships.”

This summer, Davis and LSU E3 Program Co-Director/Translator Justin Myers brought their largest group ever—20 students—to Germany. The group, consisting of various engineering majors, spent three weeks visiting sites, taking educational tours, attending presentations and going to class. While traveling, students are required to take one three-hour course—either IE 4785, taught by Davis; or Honors 2020, co-taught by Davis and LSU Instructor David Bowles, who Skypes in.

“We have plenty planned as far as all of our class time and tours geared toward engineering,” Davis said. “We bring a lot of history. I like being able to work with the students in a different way than in the classroom. This is very different.”

The E3 students kicked off their trip by flying into Hamburg, where they resided for the first week. The six-day leg featured visits to Miniatur Wunderland & Harbor Walk, Rathous, Elbphilharmonie, and the Elbtunnel; educational tours of Airbus and Lufthansa Technik, one of the world’s leading providers of maintenance, repair, and overhaul for civil aircraft; presentations by local professors on aviation and renewable energy; and one morning or afternoon class each day at the University of Applied Science in Hamburg. There was also a free day for students to explore the city solo or with fellow classmates.

“We do all these tours so they get to see a lot of engineering for different kinds of companies,” Davis said. “I don’t want it to be all about one engineering. This year, I had a few computer science majors, and they all got something from the program.”

From Hamburg, the students took a two-hour train ride to Berlin, which served as their hub for the second week of the trip. The group made quick jaunts to Wolfsburg to tour the Volkswagen Factory and to Oranienburg, where they visited the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp as part of an engineering ethics class and toured BMW Motorcycle. There were also sights to see in Berlin, such as the East Side Gallery, the Berlin Wall, the ic! Berlin eyewear factory, and the Reichstag. But as goes with traveling, there was an unexpected surprise along the way.

“This year, we were there for the World Cup, so we watched Germany play onscreen at Brandenburg Gate,” Davis said. “When we’re in a city, we try to find out what’s going on and take advantage of the different activities. We want the students to have fun.”

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will probably never have again,” LSU Mechanical Engineering senior Gabrielle Welty said of mingling with locals to watch the World Cup. “It was absolutely amazing.”

Students at museum in GermanyFor the last week of the trip, the students stayed in Brannenburg, a mountainous municipality in the Alps of Bavaria that is nearly seven hours from Berlin via train. Students enjoyed a tour of the historical Verkehrszentrum Museum and BMW FIZ in nearby München.

“My favorite tour was of the BMW FIZ facility—their centralized research and development campus,” said LSU Mechanical Engineering sophomore Adam Bobbs, a native of Lafayette, La. “We saw their design facilities, as well as vehicle testing labs, which made for a truly behind-the-scenes look. In addition to these direct experiences, we adapted to a different style of living, which included taking public transportation within the cities and traveling by train to cover long distances.”

“My favorite thing that we did was go to the Bavarian Alps and swim in the lake,” Welty said. “It was so absolutely beautiful. We got to play volleyball, enjoy a delicious lunch, and spend time with German people. We also got to do city tours of each place we stayed in, which was super interesting, because every place was so different and had so much history. I would love to go back.”

In the final days of the trip, students wrote and submitted a paper and presented a final group project, which isn’t as bad as it may seem.

“I actually really enjoyed writing the final paper because the prompt gave tons of room for creativity and thought, and we got to type our paper wherever we pleased,” Welty said. “I typed mine on the balcony of my room, overlooking the mountains. Our final project was actually really fun, and I liked how we got to pick our own groups and work as a team.”

The final night of the E3 program consisted of a farewell dinner, which was bittersweet for some students.

“It was kind of sad actually, because we were all discussing how close we got in such a short period of time, and how we wished we would have known each other longer,” Welty said.

After their time in the E3 program came to an end, many of the students decided to stay on and travel to Vienna with Davis or stay in Europe and trek alone.

“Out of my 20 students, a lot of them chose to travel before or after the program,” Davis said. “They went different places, depending on where they had family or friends. A lot of times, their parents will fly over and meet them.”

As for the “add-on” to Vienna, Davis said it isn’t often she gets to plan a little side trip with the students after the program.

“It really does depend on the schedule and the group of students and what they want,” she said. “There are a lot of variables we work with on that.”

Students may apply online for E3 through LSU Academic Programs Abroad. The application goes live in early October, with spots usually filling up by Thanksgiving or early December. Though there are certain requirements the students must meet, they are chosen on a first-come, first-served basis. Students from other universities are also allowed to join the trip if space allows.

“Through the years, I’ve had students from different universities join us,” Davis said. “This year, a Louisiana Tech student joined us since he was good friends with an LSU student on the trip.”

The next E3 trip will take place June 2-24, 2019, though the itinerary changes from year to year.

“Every year varies,” Davis said. “Over the years, it’s gotten less stressful and more fun. I don’t get thrown. If a tour cancels on me, I can think of my different options. I have a lot of contacts now. And each year, I have a new group of students, so that keeps it fun and challenging.”

As for what the students think of Davis as a leader, they have nothing but accolades for her.

“I believe Ms. Davis was an excellent leader,” Bobbs said. “She struck the correct balance of creating an educational atmosphere while maintaining the excitement of experiencing a foreign culture. The excursions and activities she carefully planned were all valuable, and class 

time was always productive. We were all grateful for the meticulous planning and coordination she does for the program, allowing us to have a smooth and successful experience.”

“Paige Davis is an inspiration to any woman in the engineering field,” Welty said. “She works extremely hard, works well under pressure, and ensures that everything runs smoothly and enjoyably. I would definitely recommend this program to engineer students. We got to meet students all over the engineering college, everything was efficiently planned, and we got to experience true European culture.” 


View photos from the 2018 E3 trip.


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Contact: Libby Haydel

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