“An opportunity like this don’t come along very often. Being able to put in practice the theoretical knowledge that I have learnt over these 5 years at Técnico is very good”, says the Técnico student Francisco Caldas (Applied Mathematics and Computation) after participating in INSPIRED 2020: “Interstrellar Re-factory”, promoted by Technische Universität Darmstadt (TU Darmstadt), and organised, this year, by the European University UNITE! Another 8 students from Universidade de Lisboa (ULisboa) are part of the project held entirely online this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Students from three UNITE! Partner universities (Portugal, Italy and Germany) are participating in INSPIRED 2020.
Students are carrying out research and learning together in interdisciplinary groups for three weeks. The programme consists of two phases: a virtual e-Learning phase and the so-called “Do phase” – a three-week summer school. In the e-Learning course, the participants with different specialist backgrounds prepare independently to complete the task that awaits them during the summer school. In the “Do phase”, the main aim is to investigate an unusual and challenging (bio)engineering issue together – in international and interdisciplinary project teams. This year, their task is to design a sustainable and efficient bioreactor that can generate nutrients and therapeutics under the extreme conditions found in space.
The e-Learning course took place from 30th March to 14th June, anda t this moment students are already fully involved in the practical work. Students are highly encouraged to develop their creativity, originality and cooperation skills.
“I have learnt about materials engineering, LEAN manufacturing, synthetic biology and space physics”, says the Técnico student, regarding his experience during the 1st phase. “Some parts of the programme were very educational and I ended up being interested in subjects that I didn’t even know existed. I think it was worth it because all members of my team have a common knowledge base”, highlights Francisco Caldas.
“Working as a team with people from different countries – there are people from Japan, South Korea and Germany in my team -, is the most interesting part of this project”, stresses the student. Besides the stimulating challenge, the Técnico student highlights “this is an opportunity to learn about different ways of working and to learn how to overcome the technical difficulties of working online”. “We have been getting up at 8:00 in the last few days and we have been almost in constant contact until 16:00, which is amazing, since five days ago I didn’t know any of them ”, shares the student.
Professor Fátima Montemor, vice-president of Técnico for Research and International Affairs and also coordinator of UNITE! at Técnico stresses the importance of this summer school and its unique characteristics: “The INSPIRED project highlights the emerging trends in teaching that are being implemented in the best European universities. Interdisciplinary and international approaches that will meet the great challenges ahead”. “The collaboration with our partners from UNITE! has originated fruitful partnerships that allow us to share talent and knowledge”.
Alongside TU Darmstadt as the coordinator, UNITE! (University Network for Innovation, Technology and Engineering) also includes Aalto University (Finland), KTH Royal Institute of Technology (Sweden), Grenoble Institute of Technology (France), Politecnico di Torino (Italy), Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (Spain) and Universidade de Lisboa (Portugal).
In 2021 two similar programmes will be open to UNITE! students: INSPIRED will take place in Darmstadt, while a similar interdisciplinary and international summer programme will be offered at ULisboa.