MENOMONIE — Yang “Jessica” Weifan, a junior majoring in automation engineering at the University of Science and Technology-Beijing in China, marveled at the UW-Stout laboratories she visited as part of a recent two-week educational and cultural visit.
“In our labs we don’t have as new of equipment,” Weifan said. “I think all the labs are really big. The students here can get into the labs their freshman year, which is quite different in my country. We have a lot of theoretical classes before we can get into the laboratories.”
Weifan was one of 14 students from the Beijing Universities Alliance of Excellence Engineering Education who came to UW-Stout from July 14 to July 28. They took lab-based workshops and other classes while visiting area businesses and learning about American culture.
This is the first year the students from the Beijing Universities Alliance have visited, part of UW-Stout’s new Summer in the Midwest program. The alliance is made up of 17 universities sharing opportunities and knowledge for students, said Jiming Ma, who teaches automation control at Beihang University in Beijing. Students from 13 universities in the Beijing area were on the trip.
“For students it is a great adventure to come here and open their minds,” Ma said. “For most of them it is the first time they have come to the United States. It helps them to think internationally and not just about China. Engineers need to think about being all over the world. They need to know how to communicate cross-culturally.”
Michael Lee, UW-Stout international student adviser, said the Chinese students and other foreign students allow the campus community to share what UW-Stout has to offer and to help attract more international students in the future.
“It also creates an opportunity for our domestic students who are here during the summer to learn more about other cultures and to meet students from other countries,” Lee said.
The students from Beijing experienced welding, using donated hardware such as nuts and bolts to create sculptures, and experienced a foundry by metal-casting a keychain. Other labs included packaging and robotics.
Yufeng “David” Guo, a junior studying electrical engineering and business administration at the Beijing Institute of Technology, said he enjoyed visiting the campus, finding it beautiful.
“The faculty and labs are very advanced,” Guo said. “People who run the labs are very dedicated and hard-working and really care about the students. They are willing to talk to us one on one.”
Classes are often quite large in China, Guo noted.
During the welding class, Guo said he hoped to sculpt a motorcycle from nuts and bolts but found he needed more skill to finish the project.
He said he was excited to get an opportunity to weld and create a keychain in the foundry. His school closed the labs that offered those programs.
Kevin Dietsche, a UW-Stout lecturer in the engineering and technology department, helped the students make the keychains, allowing them to experience metal casting.
Using a foam form buried in sand, liquid aluminum alloy was poured over the form, which melts. Students then cooled the keychain in water and finished it by sanding it.
“I just enjoy teaching,” Dietsche said. “I enjoy working with my hands and having the opportunity to share that with others. These are engineering students, and for them to see and do the process, I think, is neat.”
Weifan said she has an affinity for the U.S. and Menomonie.
“I think this country is really magical,” she said. “It has a lot of different people from a lot of countries from all over the world. Cultural diversity is something that is really different for us. I really wanted to come here to see how the students in an American college are educated.”