St_Thomas Engineer 2023


Climate Change

From Experience to Insight




How can engineers learn to navigate an interconnected work world, where differing communication and conflict styles constantly present themselves? Even within a single team, productive communication cannot be taken for granted. And when working to deliver the fruits of engineering design to clients and customers, how many of the challenges comprise communication obstacles as well as technical ones? For example, how does one decipher

what would be the best design solution for rural Andean farmers who have very different priorities than typical Americans? The international programs the School of Engineering creates for our students allow those who select them to practice both directions of communication with clients: listening as well as speaking, reading as well as writing. And they situate this practice in an intercultural context, where surprises and inadvertent missteps are highlighted for the students in Technicolor. Because it is not “business as usual,” these experiences engage their curiosity and lead them to ask how they might apply their learned lessons in the future, with their next clients. However, as is sometimes said about study abroad programs, “going is not knowing.” Simply traveling and experiencing different cultures does not automatically translate into actionable skill development toward future interactions. This is why the School of Engineering intentionally scaffolds the international programs with wraparound learning modules expressly created to build intercultural competence. In particular, students receive country-specific cultural context preparation by locals from the region before leaving and work through a comprehensive Global Competence Certificate program. This program is designed to help them increase both their awareness and skills in dealing with difference in all shapes and forms, engaging them before, during, and after their international experience. n Dr. Doug Dunston, DMA, is the KEEN program coordinator. Dr. Brittany Nelson-Cheeseman is an associate professor and director of materials science and engineering.

University of St. Thomas School of Engineering Professor Dr. John Abraham , along with 23 colleagues from 16 institutions around the world, published a climate change study Jan. 11, 2023, in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences. They found that 2022 was a record year for our planet’s temperature – Earth continues to heat as global warming continues unabated. Their measurements show that the rate of warming has actually accelerated. The heat is enormous – equivalent to the energy from five Hiroshima atomic bombs being detonated every second, day and night, of every day, for the entire year. The researchers collected hundreds of thousands of temperature measurements made around the world’s oceans, from the surface to 2,000 meters (more than a mile) of depth. Very sophisticated thermometers were used; some were attached to robots that automatically moved through the ocean waters. Why measure the oceans? It turns out that the oceans hold almost all the excess heat on planet Earth. In fact, more than 90% of global warming heat ends up in the oceans. So, to understand what is happening to our planet, look to the oceans, because global warming is really ocean warming.

Abraham said not to

Increasing heat in the world’s ocean

become too discouraged. The U.S. and other countries are starting to take action to handle climate change. Costs for wind and solar energy

have fallen so rapidly that we can now power our homes and other buildings more cheaply with renewable energy than with fossil fuels. Electric cars are increasing as people witness their excellent performance and very low cost of operation. And St. Thomas is training future scientists and engineers to bring clean energy solutions to our communities. “We are entering a time period where we have real solutions to this problem,” Abraham said. “Now you can save money and the environment at the same time. Who can be against that? The clean energy economy also requires a highly skilled workforce. St. Thomas is training that workforce today, for the jobs of the future.” n

In the Global Summers program, student design teams travel to Peru (above) or Jordan and live in homestays for seven to eight weeks. There, they dive into better understanding the context and background around their engineering project with the local community and begin working toward possible solutions. In the engineering and German dual degree program, students build a robust repertoire of international experiences, including a semester studying abroad in Germany and two separate internships in the U.S. and Germany for a German company.

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St. Thomas Engineer 2023 Page 27

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