Daily Iowan: College of Engineering Hosts French Students

Friday, February 4, 2011

By Kendall McCabe
Daily Iowan

Three French engineering students and a group of University of Iowa students tiptoed across the catwalk high above the Campus Recreation & Wellness Center’s diving well during the USA Diving 2011 Winter National Championships on Thursday.

But the group members weren’t there to watch the competition. They were there to see the subject of their semester-long research project.

The students from the Université de Provence, in Marseille, France, partnered with 10 UI students to complete their senior design course project. The team researched ways to cut energy consumption at the Recreation Center’s diving well and the Field House. On Jan. 31, the students were finally able to meet.

“Spending time with the students shows that despite our nationalities and natural languages, we are inherently the same,” said UI senior Stephanie Swanson Thursday. “They might as well be one of our fellow students here at Iowa.”

Video in QuickTime format, click here for free player download

The French students will present their work to UI College of Engineering faculty members today, then return home Saturday.

They worked as part of the Virtual International Project Team, spearheaded by Daniel Mineck, retired vice president of performance engineering and environment at Alliant Energy Corp, for the last four years.

Though the project is relatively unheard of outside of the engineering school, Mineck said it is growing.

Approximately 20 UI students applied, but only 10 students were accepted.

“It was the first year we had to turn people down,” Mineck said, noting he and Interim Provost and former Dean of the College of Engineering Barry Butler choose a contemporary and sustainability-related project each semester.

Butler founded the program in 1999 for French and UI students to collaborate on projects that typically involve UI buildings, because they are newer than those in Marseille and blueprints are more readily accessible.

The French portion of the team conducted fluid dynamic analysis of the 50-meter competitive swimming pool and 18-foot deep diving well at the UI. The analysis studied air flow and its relationship to water temperature and aimed to cut electricity costs and lower energy consumption by 10 percent. The UI students conducted studies to lower energy consumption at the Field House.

“They work in English units while we work in metric units,” said Thomas Berville, a French senior. “It was very interesting.”

The group has toured the Rec Center, Acciona Energy, Whirpool Corp., and even attended the Iowa Hawkeye men’s basketball game against Michigan on Feb. 2.

“It was very, very impressive and very exciting,” said Johan Lopinto, who plays basketball in France.

The UI engineering students will visit Marseille for two weeks the day after they graduate in May.

Their airfare is funded through private donations.

“This project is unique,” Mineck said. “There’s no other group that does it quite like this.”