This summer has been a whirlwind of fun, learning, and personal growth for me. My program consisted of taking three classes over the course of five weeks in Munich, Germany: one week spent learning German, two weeks learning about the design of sustainable energy systems, and the last two weeks learning about the potential of renewable energy. Each class was taught over the course of eight days, with five hours of instruction each day. All of them had a project and a final exam to test our understanding of the concepts taught and our ability to apply them to the real world. The program also had several cultural excursions to immerse us in German culture and engineering, such as trips to the BMW factory in Munich, an unfinished palace belonging to King Ludwig II, and a hydroelectric power plant.
I believe that this program was very successful in educating me about the issues surrounding the transition of our energy grid from being powered by fossil fuels to renewable energies while also making it crystal clear that it is undeniably necessary for the future of humanity. I came in only with a baseline understanding along the lines of “fossil fuels pollute and will run out, renewable energy doesn’t pollute and will not run out” and came out with a significantly more nuanced understanding of how different sources of renewable energy work, what they are capable of, what they aren’t, and what stands in the way of their implementation at the moment. The work I did on projects throughout the course helped me understand the scale of issues both on an individual and national level, and taught me how to critically evaluate potential solutions that are being suggested to help us through the climate crisis.
I think that this knowledge will both help me as a student and industrial engineer. The technical knowledge I now have from this summer will undoubtedly be a boon for future projects that I work on, since I will be able to design and evaluate my solutions in an entirely new dimension. I expect this to directly translate to my work as an industrial engineer after graduation, where my work will have a much more tangible real world impact. Having the knowledge to more fully understand the environmental impact of the decisions I make will guide me towards making the best possible solution at every turn. This will let me contribute to fighting climate change through my work, and if that wasn’t the overall goal of the summer program for myself and the university, I don’t know what was.