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University of Iowa News Release

March 11, 2005

UI Engineering Students Partner With French Colleagues

The University of Iowa College of Engineering has initiated a pilot program called Virtual International Project Teams (VIPT) that will enable two undergraduate students to work for one year on a real-world engineering project with their counterparts at Marseille Polytech in Marseille, France.

The students, both juniors, are Peter Rasmussen of Omaha, Neb., and Chad Smith of Sioux City, Iowa.

Engineering Dean Barry Butler says that the VIPT program recognizes that engineering has become a more global profession, with many companies relying on international collaboration in the design, manufacturing and marketing of their products. In addition, firms involved in the delivery of engineering consulting and other services are becoming more involved in international activities.

"It's clear that engineering students throughout the world must develop special skills to adapt quickly and become effective workers in an international community. Of equal importance, they must be knowledgeable and respectful of cultural differences if they are to be an effective member of an international team," he says.

"Specifically, the four-person research project -- consisting of two Iowa and two French students -- will combine the thermal-fluids strength of Marseille Polytech with the biomedical and chemical/biochemical engineering strengths of the UI," Butler says.

The VIPT program calls for students to communicate regularly by way of the Internet, email, video-conferencing, shared Web sites and other electronic means, but it also calls for the Iowans to travel to France in May and the French students to travel to Iowa in October. As a consequence, UI students will be required to earn Cultural Competency Certificates through the Ethnic Inclusion for Engineering at Iowa program and enroll in the College of Engineering Honors Program. In addition, students are encouraged to take advantage of workshops and seminars offered by the Office of International Students and Scholars.

Butler adds that VIPT goals ensure that students will experience a team-based project experience, gain an understanding and appreciation of engineering standards, common engineering practices and cultures in other countries; develop the personal skills necessary to work on a team with students from another country on a common project; and understand and master the difficulties of communicating clearly and concisely through electronic media. He says that VIPT will be evaluated and possibly expanded in 2006.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009,