This semester the iPodia international classroom culminated in a trip to Beijing, China where all six partner universities enrolled in the Spring 2015 course, Principles and Practices of Global Innovation, met in person for the first time. In total, the University of Southern California, Peking University, Tsinghua University, the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, and Technion University were represented abroad in Beijing, bringing students from five different countries, and cultural backgrounds, together for meaningful learning. The students were hosted by Tsinghua, conveniently located on their beautiful campus on the north side of Beijing.
At the start of the trip, iPodia students were welcomed in an opening ceremony held at the Chinese Academy of Engineering; after receiving a speech from the CAE’s President, Zhou Ji, on how iPodia’s pedagogy and structure may influence the way we learn, the students toured the academy, where they were able to see many of the engineering challenges that China has overcome. Many of these were responses to China’s energy, economic, and population infrastructures.
Throughout the trip, students were engaged together working on their final project, a culmination of the curriculum that was taught throughout the semester on product lifecycles, ideation, project management, and most importantly, innovation. Students worked together, with local company Gizwits, to produce a life sized chess set that could move via remote controls. By implementing flame chess, a simplified version of the game geared towards kids and used for educational purposes, alongside this idea, the project aimed at creating a game that was both informational for kids, but also tied in technological aspects as a response to the growing trend for technology’s implementation in education.
During the trip, the students visited several of China’s most prominent cultural and historical monuments and attractions, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace, and many others. One of the favorite cultural experiences was visiting hutongs in Beijing, where students saw their importance to Chinese culture and had authentic Chinese tea tastings. Students also visited the Beijing Zoo, particularly drawn to seeing Panda’s in person for their first time ever!
On one of the days during the trip, the students visited the city of Tianjin, a couple hours south west of Beijing on the east coast of China, to see receive a tour of a local school there as well as to visit the fastest super computer in the world.
Throughout the trip, the students visited a number of different companies; some of the most prominent included Cisco China, Intel China, and ZTE, where students were exposed to the most up to date video conferencing technologies offered by each company and how those technologies could potentially find their way into an iPodia classroom in the future. The demos from each company were amazing, and all the students envisioned the usefulness of the technology as it pertains to both their future professional lives and the iPodia class as a whole. Students visited a New Huadu Business School lecture on the importance of China to the global economy and received some insight to Chinese culture.
Of course, the students couldn’t leave Beijing before trying a traditional Peking duck dinner, which many students said was their favorite meal of the trip, although it had many dishes that were exotic to students from Israel, India, and the United States.
All in all, the two weeks in Beijing allowed iPodia students to gain intimate cultural and social insight into not only Chinese culture, but also the culture of their fellow classmates.