Last summer some students chose to take a summer course thousands of miles from home all the way on the other side of the globe. These students went to the University of Wollongong (UoW) in Australia to tackle a sustainable design project, evaluating the energy usage of a 180-person residence hall, and making feasible recommendations to increase its energy efficiency. They were also one of the first groups to tour UoW’s newly constructed Sustainable Buildings Research Center (SBRC), a net-zero energy building that, over its lifetime, will produce as much or more energy than it takes to build and operate.
Mines students had the unique opportunity to work in a truly global atmosphere with each team including at least one Australian student. Some teams included students from other countries, even a few of the professors were from other countries. “Some of the professors from the University of Wollongong were from Asia. It was a challenge trying to understand them because not only did they have an Asian accent when they spoke English, but they had an Australian accent on top of it,” said Nicole Neals. Aside from getting first-hand global experience, students also felt this three-week version of EPICS 2 was really effective because the projects weren’t “drawn out” through an entire semester, and since this was the only course they were taking, the students could devote all their energy to their projects.
What did the students do in their free time? One of the biggest highlights of this trip was spending a weekend in surf camp. Yes, even though it was winter in Australia, they had high 60’s to low 70’s temperatures and it was nice enough to go surfing. The students also took a few trips up to Sydney, which was only one hour away by train. Carathryn Beutel shared her testimony about her experience, “Taking EPICS 2 in Australia has been one of the best academic decisions I have made. Living in an international dorm and working in groups with Australian students has been a great learning experience, preparing me to work in the global job market. We got to see what we might be doing later on as engineers by performing an energy audit on a building in the University of Wollongong’s Innovation Campus. We also got to experience some Aussie culture by eating Vegemite, learning how to surf, and feeding kangaroos. This has been an amazing experience that I would recommend to any student.”
So was there anything negative about this trip at all? “I wish I had gone to the Great Barrier Reef, gone to the Outback or saw another city,” said William Siirola. “Overall, I would give the whole experience 9.5/10, and I know when they do this class again next year it will be much better. The flight was 15 hours long, non-stop from LA to Sydney. And don’t fly United, fly QUANTAS. They treat you much better.” When asked if he would recommend taking this course in Australia if it were offered again, William Siirola said, “I would highly, highly recommend it. The trip was expensive. You had to pay for tuition (3 credits), plus airfare, room and board, and you needed spending money, but it was worth every penny. And if I could talk to a freshman right now, I would say to do it now! You may find your four years here will go by really fast so do it while you can.”
If you choose to do EPICS2 in Oz next summer, you will be studying at a school that won the 2013 Solar Decathlon in Beijing, China. The UoW’s SBRC student team won first place in four categories at the Solar Decathlon, an international competition sponsored by the US Department of Energy that “challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.”