The summer semester at Technische Hochschule Ulm has been a wild ride so far! With a new school comes a new city, new sights, new friends, new restaurants, new everything! We’ve been in Ulm for about 4 weeks now, but still we are adjusting to everything.
My courses are up and fully running, past the review period and right into the new material. Technische Mechanik II (Strength of Materials) is one of the toughest courses in undergraduate engineering. My colleagues have said how tough it is, and now I’m living that reality. In Strengths, we study how rigid bodies (structures, shapes, beams/towers, etc.), made of materials (varying internal/external properties), react to stress. Stress can be mechanical, thermal, or otherwise. There are many ways that a body can react to a stress including bending, buckling, torsion, compression/tension, and shearing.
The challenging part of this class is applying theory to a system and understanding the behavior of it. When you derive an equation (equilibrium conditions, summing forces [x,y,z], formula, or differential equation, you must know where it came from in order to get the desired outcome. In algebra you learn how to isolate a variable and solve for it. In physics, you learn laws and theories, and the mathematics behind them, including the units of measurement. In engineering, you take everything that you’ve learned, one step further. You must learn how to describe a system by a mathematical equation (modelling), in my opinion, the most difficult part! Once you have your starting place, the rest of the way is almost always smooth sailing.
I will include some examples of problems I’ve worked on so far. Don’t feel bad if you don’t understand what’s going on, I hardly do! Just kidding, I know exactly what’s going on, but it took a long time to understand it!
Technische Mechanik III (Dynamics) is almost a whole different ball game. In Dynamics, we focus on movement of bodies. We use “kinematics” to predict the motion of a particle or body without considering things like air drag or friction. Later, we then use “kinetics” to describe the actual motion as best as possible. There are different layers of difficulty to overcome with these concepts. They are all derived from physics (engineering is just applied physics) but elaborate in real-world settings. I am only currently taking two engineering courses and one German language course. This is plenty to keep me busy with. Most of the time I’m spending translating lecture notes and assignments so that I can understand the specifics. I am doing my best to learn the German along the way, but there’s a lot to swallow! Fortunately, my program has hired me a tutor for extra help. Denis, my tutor, is extremely resourceful and intelligent. He’s currently a Ph.D. student in Mechanical Engineering, with a focus on structural mechanics and acoustics, just the guy for the job!
Stay tuned for more progress: academic, cultural, linguistic, and otherwise! I’m loving life and enjoying the last 4 months in Germany! I hate how fast the time has flown. Everything has lined up perfectly according to plan. Of course, things change along the way; some for good, some not… but that’s what you get when you study abroad: you sign up for the roller coaster ride/experience of a lifetime! I’m just cherishing these last months and making the absolute best of my time remaining. We’re doing day trips almost every weekend, visiting the Münster (the largest church in the world), and even took a trip to the Zoo!
Until next time!
Grüße aus Ulm!