Engineering student to travel to China for competition

Mark Hammontree

A University of Alabama engineering student will spend his summer designing a bridge in a city more than 7,000 miles from Tuscaloosa.

Thomas Moat, a senior majoring in construction engineering, will travel to Beijing, China this July to participate in the 2013 International Summer School of Structural Engineering at Tsinghua University. Moat will team up with two Chinese students to compete against about 30 other students to produce the best design for a pedestrian over crossing.

Thomas said he heard about the program from Wei Song, assistant professor in the civil, construction and environmental engineering department.

“I’m from China, so I have several connections there,” Song said. “The professors at Tsinghua University, I know their work, and they visited me while I was at Purdue working for the Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation Program. We kept the contact, and they mentioned that they had this summer school opportunity.”

(See also “Chinese language takes hold on US college campuses”)

Song said the program has existed for several years with a goal of international cultural exchange in the area, as well as improving China’s structural engineering work and the educational value of the program.

“The summer school is also believed to provide an excellent platform for the international students to work together, understand various cultures and build friendships,” according to the mission statement. “In addition, a series of academic lectures and technical visits to outstanding engineering projects will be offered by the summer school.”

Moat is the first University of Alabama student to participate in the program. He said he is looking forward to being exposed to real-world projects in another country.

“It’s a great opportunity to go to China, meet people that are working on similar projects to what were working on here in the lab, and to be able to see another side,” Moat said. “There’s also the cultural advantage to getting out in the work place and knowing people and having contacts.”

For Song, the opportunity provides a good opportunity for American students to do meaningful work and get real exposure to projects that might not be as common in America right now.

“The need for civil engineering in China and other Asian countries is much, much greater,” Song said. “So, with these opportunities, it’s good for students in the United States to be exposed to this kind of construction in this amount.”

The program, which will begin on July 2, will last three weeks. When it concludes, Moat plans to spend an extra week traveling to other cities in the country. Moat said the University is going to help pay for his plane ticket, and all other costs will be covered by Tsinghua University and the Chinese government.

“China’s such a big and interesting country,” Moat said. “I’m a little nervous, but I am excited. It’ll be a good opportunity, something I’ve never done before.”

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