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Release: May 7, 1999

UI students engineer trip to France

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Four University of Iowa students recently spent their spring break in France, not sight-seeing, but consulting with their French classmates as part of a Virtual International Design class to build smart workstations.

The four UI students are: Amanda Ennis, mechanical engineering senior from Taylorville, Ill.; Elizabeth Youngwirth, mechanical engineering senior from LuVerne, Iowa; Adam Cannon, mechanical engineering master's student from Orlando, Fla.; and Alan Szech, marketing senior in the Tippie College of Business from Lake Bluff, Ill.

During the spring semester, they communicated over the Internet with four students at the Institute for Industrial Thermal Systems (IUSTI) on the campus of the Universite de Provence in Marseilles, France by e-mail and videoconferencing. While the project was conducted in English over the Internet, the face-to-face meeting made it possible to learn some French as well as hold technical sessions on computational analysis and computer software.

According to P. Barry Butler, interim dean of the College of Engineering and professor of mechanical engineering, the fledgling Virtual International Design program is an attempt to introduce UI students to the global teamwork that is becoming more common in international design scheduling. For example, a UI team may work on a web site from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (CDT) before handing off the project to a second team in another part of the world from 5 p.m. to midnight (CDT). The third team, located in France, may work from midnight to 8 a.m. (CDT).

Theodore F. Smith, professor of mechanical engineering and program coordinator, says that the project was conducted in cooperation with office furniture manufacturer HON, Inc., which also provided funding for the students. Ralph I. Stephens, professor of mechanical engineering and project faculty advisor, notes that the project is a success, with the students making progress in designing office cubicles that allow occupants to individually control temperature in the workplace.

For the four IUSTI students, all of whom are juniors, the project will continue in November when they visit the University of Iowa to learn more about American culture and perhaps obtain an American internship before graduation.