Earlier this month, 11 students from one of India’s top engineering colleges began a four-week international internship organized by Carleton’s Canada-India Centre for Excellence (CICE), a pilot program that supports the centre’s goal of promoting intercultural connections and education.

The students, who came to Ottawa with Devarajaiah R.M. from the Acharya Institute of Technology in Bengaluru, India, are all in their third- or fourth-year of undergraduate degrees in either mechanical or aeronautical engineering.

At Carleton, they are being taught subjects such as robotics, control systems, avionics and unmanned aerial vehicles by a pair of PhD scholars, Julius Osemudiamen Adoghe and Malik Al-Isawi. The PhD scholars’ supervisor, Prof. Jurek Sasiadek, is the university’s academic lead for the internship and helped develop the curriculum.

Designing an international internship

“The trick was to design a course that would really speak to the needs of the visiting students and provide a true sense of how the material is covered at Canadian schools,” says CICE Manager Harry Sharma, who started talking about study abroad exchanges with officials from Acharya and other post-secondary institutions while participating in a trade mission to India with Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson in April.

“The plan is for this to serve as a template for more international internships focusing on other subjects within engineering and different fields. Hopefully, it will be the first of many to come.

“It’s a nice mix of several complementary elements: the Indian students are exposed to Canadian-style education and industry, Carleton graduate students get teaching experience and learn more about overseas approaches to education, and Carleton creates more international awareness about its graduate programs.”

“This initiative represents a new direction for the Canada-India Centre,” says Pauline Rankin, Carleton’s associate vice-president (Research and International). “By hosting this group of students, CICE is able to connect directly to Indian post-secondary institutions and highlight Carleton’s expertise in research and teaching. This study tour offers a model for future visiting Indian students and scholars who wish to experience the best that Carleton and Canada have to offer.”

Learning outside the classroom

Beyond the classroom sessions, which take place in the CICE’s River Building boardroom, the students are visiting Carleton engineering labs and wind tunnels, and other units on campus, including 1125@Carleton, where they learned about social entrepreneurship.

“The whole concept of social entrepreneurship was new to them,” says Sharma. “It really opened their eyes. They’re experiencing things that are unique to Carleton and unique to Canada.”

The students also learn from guest presenters, such as Phoenix Homes CEO Cockoo Kochar, a civil engineer who talked to them about the professional possibilities and entrepreneurial opportunities that exist in Canada.

Guest speakers from Carleton have included representatives from the Technology Innovation Management master’s program, Carleton International, and the university’s graduate studies office, which provided information about the application and funding system.

“A few of the students have expressed a very strong interest in doing a master’s degree in Canada,” says Sharma. “Others are curious about working here someday, or working for a company in India that does business with Canada.”

For Gavin D’cunha and Prithvi Reddy, third-year aerospace and fourth-year mechanical engineering students respectively, the highlight of the program has been trips to engineering companies in Ottawa, such as ING Robotic Innovation and Life Prediction Technologies Inc., as well as local research centres.

“It’s very good practical exposure to engineering,” says D’cunha, who hopes to launch a company that manufactures airplane engine parts someday. “We’re covering so many different topics, but all in a very applied way.”

“It’s one thing to learn theories about technology development, but it’s much better to actually see the technology and get a better understanding how it works,” says Reddy, who plans to become a pilot after graduating, or maybe earn an MBA and go into business. “Engineering students do more hands-on work in Canada than in India, and that’s very valuable.”

Both D’cunha and Reddy are keen to explore graduate school possibilities at Carleton, a prospect made more attractive by these stress-free internships, with one fee covering their coursework and fully furnished accommodation.

Carleton’s capital advantage

Staying in a central location has helped the students discover Ottawa, says their professor, Devarajaiah, who, like most of the students, is in Canada for the first time.

“We’ve been to see the light show at Parliament Hill and went to the National Gallery of Canada and, of course, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum,” says Devarajaiah, who learned about the international internship in an email from the head of his department in July, and believes colleagues from other engineering departments at Acharya will be interested in future opportunities.

“The facilities at Carleton and the people at the university have been the most impressive part of this experience,” says Devarajaiah. “Things like business incubation and the Technology Innovation Management program are very important for our students to learn about.

“Our students are very motivated and want to take advantage of every opportunity, both the cultural and academic aspects. Really, this is about bringing people together.”

Adoghe, who started his mechanical engineering PhD at Carleton last September, has been impressed by how motivated the students are in the robotics classes that he has been teaching. “They’re really paying attention and asking a lot of questions,” he says.

Moreover, participating in the program has allowed him to get closer to his own studies: he’s had to do a lot of extra research to prepare for his lessons. “I’m getting great teaching experience too,” he says. “I can add that to my resume and it will give me an edge.”

Thursday, August 18, 2016 in
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