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MIT-Germany Program takes European trip as part of IAP course

Many IAP activities take place off-campus, but an eclectic group of 15 students traveled far off campus in January -- to Germany.

The MIT-Germany Program, which organized the trip, aims to create lasting bonds between MIT and the academic and business communities in Germany. The trip was sponsored by Lufthansa (which provided air transportation and some accommodations), Siemens, DaimlerChrysler and the German Academic Exchange Service.

The tour included a two-day workshop at the Lufthansa training center in Seeheim with a team of young Lufthansa engineers. The students and engineers brainstormed a strategy for Lufthansa to be the "airline of the 21st century" and then gave a presentation to Thomas Sattelberger, a Lufthansa senior executive and board member.

In Munich, students took in a presentation about Siemens's research in cellular phones. They also went to the city's Deutsche Museum and got a private tour of an information technology exhibit with computer scientist Friedrich Bauer, one of the museum's curators and inventor of the Stanislaus logic-operation machine. Also on the itinerary were visits to the opera house, the BMW Museum and the Olympic stadium.

Students toured the Lufthansa maintenance facilities in Hamburg, seeing where every plane in the airline's fleet comes for periodic overhauls. They also toured DaimlerChrysler's engine assembly plant and the Mercedes Museum in Stuttgart before returning to Frankfurt and visiting the airport's Lufthansa Technik repair and maintenance facility.

"Visiting the shops where they keep the airplanes, being inside them and witnessing the maintenance they require was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Ramon Ruberte, a graduate student in bioengineering. "Learning more about mobile phone technology at Siemens and seeing how the motors are put together for the Mercedes-Benz cars was just unbelievable."

"The excursion allowed me, as an aviation safety researcher, to taste German aeronautical activities in full strength," said Laurence Vigeant-Langlois, an aero/astro graduate student in the MIT International Center for Air Transportation. "As a commercial pilot, I was also priviledged to jump-seat between all the cities we visited, contributing to a very enriching and well-rounded aeronautical experience."

For Suzanne Nguyen, a graduate student in biology, the trip influenced her thinking about career choices. "After going to Germany on this trip, I'm more seriously considering spending a few years as a postdoctoral researcher in Germany. I know I would enjoy the culture, the environment and the people," she said.

Lufthansa has committed already to sponsoring this IAP activity again next year.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 14, 2001.

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