46 : Pedagogical Innovation: the UTC formulæ

The key guidelines for pedagogical innovation implemented by UTC aim at ensuring the students become the actors of their personal learning process. This calls for collaborative work on real, scale-one problems, also for reverse educational lectures and serious games. The aim is not only to better arm our student-engineers to face their future professional career but also to adapt the university to comply with the specifics features that characterize a new generation of undergraduates.

46 : Pedagogical Innovation: the UTC formulæ

Increasingly intercultural project-based workshops

Since 2002, the Dept. of Urban System Engineering (UTC-GSU) has implemented project-based workshops that bring the students into close contact with the realities of their future profession and career. The concept proves efficient and will be an integral component of the future “3I” Engineer (Industry – Innovation – Intercultural) that will be tested and assessed as of 2018.

 Every year, UTC-GSU organizes some six project-based workshops, each lasting for a complete semester. There are 15-20 students in each workshop, who in a manner similar to a design office accept and answer an order from a local authority or an enterprise related to some specific urban problem: planning, transportation, energy, environmental hazard and risks… The students spend one day per week on the project, with precise objectives and schedules, plus a progress report at the half-way mark and a final presentation and report.

 “These project-oriented are highly appreciated by the companies and local authorities who pass the orders”, notes Gilles Morel, Director of the UTC-GSU Dept. “For the students, it is a way to experiment real working conditions via the project, a way to enrich their knowledge of a specialty field - something that is not taught per se at UTC, given the sheer scope of sustainable urban problems – and to acquire transverse skills: being able to work in teams, to manage a project, to make use of collaborative tools.”

An interdisciplinary, international dimension

Also to an increasing extent, these workshops integrate an intercultural dimension. These urban-intensive complex projects have an international or interdisciplinary vista that is a result of the global economy; hence they bring in several professions and trades simultaneously. In 2016, for example, one of our workshops brought together students from two majors, urban system engineering and computer sciences and their applications to tackle an order from a company Sopra Steria related to ‘smart’ buildings (cf. following article intra). Also in 2016, UTC organized a first international workshop in a collaboration with the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), a partner with whom UTC has developed student exchanges and scientific co-operation since 2011. This workshop, financially supported by the Sorbonne Universities Cluster, for the purpose of facilitating access to the UFRJ campus and local on-site travel. Two Franco-Brazilian teams, one from UTC, one from UFRJ, collaborate over the Atlantic, linking northern to southern hemispheres, notably via videoconference facility, with some input from a third team based at University Paris-Sorbonne. Despite the distance here and the cultural gap, the assessment is positive: the students proposed some excellent scenarios, combining various transportation modes (classic, ‘green’, innovative…) to improve short, medium and long term mobility.

In March 2017, in the framework of an Erasmus programme, where UTC-GSU is an active partner (CityLab), a new international project-based workshop was launched, in a partnership with the Port Authorities, Lima, Peru. The objective assigned to this workshop is to provide some answers and solutions to problems faced by this key South American port where the port facilities development runs counter to Lima’s forward-looking urban plans as the capital city of Peru, where traffic congestion is a major issue and where, clearly, there is a lack of land to install storage warehouses.

A trail-blazing label

2018 will mark a new stage with both an interdisciplinary and international workshop, associating UTC and two Brazilian partners: the Federal University of Paraná (UTFPR) and the Renault car assembly site at Curitiba. The core thematics has not yet been finalized but will be sufficiently broad-based to attract and involve students from various specialties: urban engineering, computer sciences and their applications, mechanical engineering...

But the innovation does not stop here, inasmuch as this workshop entertains a much more ambitious initiative: to create a new label “Engineer 3I” – with I’s as in Industry, Innovation and ‘Interculturality’. “Major industrial groups such as Renault automobiles experience a growing need for young engineers with the capacity to work on innovation-intensive projects in multidisciplinary, international teams”, explains Gilles Morel. “To meet this new demand, UTFPR and UTC want to inaugurate a specific course that will lead to the award of this “3I” label, coming in addition to the engineering diploma itself. The outline course contents and profiling are under preparation now, but as of Semester 1, 2018, we shall be in position to field-test several modules, with support from the Sorbonne Universities Cluster”.

In February 2018, some 6 UTC and 6 UTFPR undergraduates will get together at Curitiba for a ten-day seminar the purpose of which is to prepare them to take part in multicultural team work and to detail the objectives assigned to the workshop project. During the semester, each group will follow intensive language learning (Portuguese for the French and French for the Brazilians) and at least one project management credit course (CC). Over the next few years, the students will continue their “engineer 3I” training, which will include a two-semester internship abroad: one semester with a partner university of technology, the other with a business company (or a start-up). In the long term, our aim is to build up an international network of universities of technology that will all be able to award the “engineer 3I” label.