This three-year international REU Site program is focused on automotive technologies related to the fields of mechanical engineering, mechatronics, computer science, collaborative engineering, and their intersections. This program will leverage a strong, ongoing partnership between the Technische Universitat Darmstadt (TUD), Germany and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VT) that includes joint research, team-teaching courses, BSME senior-year abroad programs, and dual-BSME and dual-MSME degree programs, to provide the REU students with firsthand experience demonstrating the globalization of the engineering profession and the importance of collaborative engineering. The REU students will have the option to conduct research at VT one summer, and then continue this work at TUD the following summer.

The primary purpose of this REU Site program is to provide students with the opportunity to practice global engineering research in an alternative, top-flight engineering culture. The secondary purpose is to enhance and broaden the interface of the transatlantic faculty and student collaborations as the mentoring research teams collaborate with their REU students engaged in joint transatlantic research projects, and as the REU students transition their research from VT one summer to TUD the subsequent summer.

This REU Site program will encourage students to pursue graduate studies and possibly research careers in general and in particular by pursuing a dual-MS degree jointly offered by the TUD and VT. It will also provide US industry and government agencies with future employees that are internationally competitive, globally engaged, and comfortable with and experienced at operating overseas, and contribute data towards the development of a predictive model that best matches an individual student with the most effective mode of global exposure, for the benefit of future international REU programs.

Project Report

This project is concerned with the operation of an international Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) site at theTechnische Universitaet Darmstadt, Germany (TUD), with a smaller sister REU site on the same theme at Virginia Tech (VT); namely, automotive engineering. The primary purpose of this dual-REU site is to provide positive student research experiences that encourages enrollment into graduate schools. A secondary objective is to expose the students to global engineering. A total of 26 US students were selected from a pool of 185 applicants (14% acceptance rate) from 82 universities, for participation during Summers 2011, 2012, and 2013. Of those selected, 31% were minority students, 42% were women, and 50% were from non-doctoral programs; and 25% of those that went abroad had never been abroad before. These 26 students were placed in 20 research projects, all with a focus on automotive engineering. 14 of these projects were located at TUD in Germany, where the NSF REU students were individually embedded in graduate research projects under the guidance of a German doctoral student and a German engineering professor. The other six projects were collaborative transatlantic projects with researchers at VT and at TUD, each with one NSF REU student at each university so the two students and their respective graduate mentors and professors effectively became the conduit in these transatlantic collaborations. The current NSF grant supported student participation during Summer 2011, 2012, and 2013; and a previous NSF grant covered Summers 2007, 2008, and 2009. Of the 59 students that participated in this NSF REU program during these six summers, 52 have since graduated. Of these graduates, 57% have continued on with graduate studies, including several pursuing graduate programs abroad. For comparison, the ratio of US BS Engineering to US MS Engineering graduates is 31% (ASEE dataset, 2012-2013). This suggests that this particular NSF REU program succeeded well in motivating its participants to pursue graduate studies. Data shows that the NSF REU students that performed research in Germany developed significantly during their two months there. These students measurably increased their factual knowledge of Germany, their awareness of US cultural tendencies, their awareness of German cultural tendencies, and their awareness in US and German culutral images. One would therefore expect that these students thereby also improved their readiness to productively participate in the global engineering economy.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Engineering Education and Centers (EEC)
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Esther Bolding
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United States
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