"Including the present fifth round of joint capstones, we have had 18 joint teams with in total 53 Chalmers students and 57 Penn State students", says Mikael Enelund.
Mikael is Dean of Education - School of MATS (Mechanical engineering, mechatronics and automation, design, shipping and marine engineering) and started this joint programme together with Professor Martin Trethewey and Jason Moore of Penn State in the fall semester of 2014 and managed to have the first projects running in the spring semester of 2015.
Video conference between students at Chalmers and Penn State.
The department of Mechanical Engineering at Penn State has a history of similar partnerships with universities in other countries, to offer students an international experience without the cost and time-commitment of travel. For the department of Industrial and Materials Science at Chalmers this is the first industry induced bachelor thesis projects where students collaborate with students at a foreign university.
"Our students have a tradition of working with real problems from the industry, which has been a very successful concept. The collaboration with Penn State adds another dimension, the global one, and makes them ready to work in an international context", says Rikard Söderberg, head of department at the Department of Industrial and Materials Science.
The students benefit from learning how to work in a global environment where communication and organization are critical to success. In addition, the students learn how to solve a technically challenging industry sponsored project, which mirrors the type of work performed in industry.
"Indeed, students that choose these projects will have a more challenging time doing their bachelor thesis project but they will learn for life!" says Lars Almefelt, Vice Head of Department with responsibility for education at undergraduate and masters level at the department of Industrial and Materials Science.
After developing this curriculum along with Mikael Enelund, Jason had the opportunity to performa sabbatical at Chalmers to further enhance this collaboration. Specifically, Jason is working to further refine the curriculum and teaching materials to maximize the learning objectives of the global collaborative course. In addition, Jason is working as a supervisor in Product Development Project class, with the goal of learning from and adding to Chalmers’ product design education curriculum.
Ola Isaksson, Professor at the division of Product Development IMS, adds:
"Exchanging experiences through real collaboration in project give a better understanding of also your own ways of working. The opportunity to exchange experiences is equally inspiring for students, supervisors and examiners. Jason’s visit give us all an excellent opportunity to develop the initiative further."
Jason Moore, Associate Professor at the Department of Mechanical Engineering, The Pennsylvania State University.
Jason, you have also been involved in other collaborations, your students have been doing projects with other peer schools – what are the benefits from that?
"With the rise of communication technology companies all around the world we have started to rely more and more on global collaboration. This provides numerous benefits for enhancing the outcome of a project; however, it comes with notable challenges. This course teaches the students how to overcome these challenges. Specifically, skills of high-level organization and communication are learned to overcome the challenges of working with partners on a global scale. In addition, students learn how to appropriately interact with students of diverse backgrounds. This work helps to prepare students for the global workforce."
The projects have been supplied mainly by manufacturing companies such as Volvo Group - do you plan to collaborate with MedTech companies regarding the “Global Student Engineering Team concept” to incorporate your research?
"We are always eager and grateful to find industry sponsors. The industry partners make this class a success by providing real world technical challenges to the students and sponsor oversight of the student teams. This allows the course to strongly reflect the type of work and challenges students will face in industry, says Jason."
Being so involved in different teaching activities – you must have given the concept of teaching a lot of thoughts? What is your vision Jason?
"The vision is to continue to enhance the collaboration between Penn State and Chalmers University and work to increase both the number of projects and the number of global partner universities. Thereby increasing the impact these projects have specifically at Penn State and Chalmers. In addition, through publications and conference presentations we will work to spread knowledge about this global collaborative model’s success to other Universities around the world. Thereby broadly impacting engineering education and helping numerous students."
Chalmers strives to deliver world-class education. The student should gain valuable and sought-after skills with the potential to work nationally and internationally. How does Chalmers education compare?
"Chalmers has an exceptional strong focus on providing students with a high quality education: providing students with the design skills that they need through engaging real world product design problems, says Jason."
What about your research Jason?
"I direct the Precision Medical Instrument Design (PMID) Laboratory at Penn State University. This laboratory focuses on two key areas; understanding medical device to body interaction and effectively applying robotics to improve medicine.
The PMID laboratory explores the interaction between medical devices and soft tissue and bone inside the body. By enhancing the understanding about medical device interaction improved medical devices and procedure techniques can be created. For example, this work has examined the interaction forces between medical devices and the body including needles, scalpels, endoscopes, catheters and bone drills .
The PMID laboratory also explores how robotics can be used to enhance medical procedures and medical training. For example, work has focused on how robotic technology can be applied to enhance physical therapy by providing physicians with greater detail about patient exercise performance . In addition, much work has focused on how robotics can be applied to enhance medical training: effectively teaching the dexterous skills needed to safely perform specific medical procedures ."
Finally, Jason, sustainability is the current buzzword, “Chalmers for a sustainable future”, what does the word sustainability mean to you?
"Through my teaching sustainability plays a major role in material design selection and in creating devices that can be very energy efficient. Specifically, we have goals to teach students to critically think about sustainability and the broad impact of the devices they are designing.
Through my research I see sustainability as having a major impact on medical products and medical education. Learning how to have medical products be cost effective to minimize impact to the health care system. Learning how to sustainably translate medical knowledge to new doctors without putting patients at risk."
Links to a few of the PennState capstone projects:
-  Barnett AC, Lee YS, Moore JZ. Fracture mechanics model of needle cutting tissue. J Manuf Sci Eng Trans ASME. 2016;138:011005-1 to 011005-8.
-  Homich AJ, Doerzbacher MA, Tschantz EL, Piazza SJ, Hills EC, Moore JZ. Minimizing human tracking error for robotic rehabilitation device. J Med Devices. 2015;9:041003-1 to 041003-8.
-  Pepley DF, Gordon AB, Yovanoff MA, Mirkin KA, Miller SR, Han DC, Moore JZ. Training surgical residents with a haptic robotic central venous catheterization simulator. J Surg Educ. 2017;74(6):1066-1073.