Posted on Jun 7, 1996

This fall, Jill Hahl and Brian Smallwood, both Class of 1997 mechanical engineering majors, and Ron Bucinell, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, will be working with two mechanical engineering students and a professor from the Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara, Turkey, on their senior capstone design projects.

The interesting thing is, the Union students aren't leaving Union, and the METU
students aren't leaving METU. Welcome to the “trial run” of Union's Virtual Term
Abroad — a real-time, computer-based design experience allowing Union students to work
interactively on a comprehensive design project with students at another university in
another country.

The concept for a Virtual Term Abroad has been discussed at Union over the past few
months, and recently under the direction of Richard Kenyon, Dean of Engineering, the
concept has begun to evolve, and the Virtual Term Abroad will likely become a component in
the new engineering curriculum to be instituted in the fall. A major goal of the
curriculum is to provide all engineering students with a term abroad, term-in-industry,
cooperative work assignment, or this virtual international design experience, dubbed the
Virtual Term Abroad.

For the Union team of Hahl, Smallwood and Professor Bucinell, the work has already
started, even though the actual design project won't be released until the fall. They've
begun working through the details and challenges of setting up a design studio, capable of
allowing the teams to communicate effectively throughout their project. “This is much
more than just E-mail,” Professor Bucinell explains.

Kenyon said he has been working on finding corporate and foundation support to help
with the construction of the design studio for this and future Virtual Terms Abroad

The Virtual Term Aboard will be conducted in English, the language of instruction at
METU. But both teams will have to deal with cultural bias and time difference, Bucinell