See It, Believe It, Experience It Engineering Study Abroad Experience
Journal entries by Prof. Ronald Welch, Dean for The Citadel School of Engineering, May 7 – 28, 2017
The day after graduation for the Class of 2017, we met at check in, cleared TSA inspections and waited at the gate. I handed each an envelope with their U.S. funds converted to euros. Everyone got food, and then we set the conditions for the engineering work to be accomplished, outlined by my favorite acronym, SWEAT-T Plus, which stands for:
And daily feelings
We landed in JFK and made our way to our gate. Dinner included a focus on discussion about what the journaling terms actually meant to me.
After a restless night for most on the plane, we landed in Rome, worked our way through customs, and sought out the train. Train cost is 14 euros and a van to the door was 15 Euros per person. What they did not tell us is the surcharge for taxes…26 euros. Lesson learned. The driver provided some excitement on the way by weaving in and out of traffic and by providing some insight to what we were seeing.
Once to the hotel we had breakfast for 5 Euros each as we waited to check in. We freshened up, stored our bags and met to begin our Rome adventure.
First stop was the Colosseum, Forum, and Palatine Hill. The students were in awe. Mission: convert forum and colosseum to more usable space while continuing to highlight the rich history. Examples I was hoping for: select concert venues with seats in the lower section of the Colosseum as it was in past, but with a glass floor to look down into the gladiator area below the floor while keeping the rest the same. Provide a space for a market in a portion of the forum on certain days and build above the forum not only to protect it from the elements , but to allow for a glass floor so visitors could look down from the venue (shops for example) above. Dinner on way back to the hotel. Students out on the town.
First stop was Santa Maria church. Did not look like much from the outside, but probably one of the most beautiful churches on the inside…not as majestic as St Peters Cathedral, but very beautiful. Mission: how did they set the large columns in the church? The columns of granite are close to 40+ tons each. So how are they transported and lifted into place?
Walked into two more churches on the way to the Treve fountain. All were impressed, but knew they wanted to come back at night. So went to the Pantheon next. Mission: how did they build the dome out of concrete? What supports were needed? Was there was a need for formwork both inside and outside? What was the order of work placement? This dome was not anywhere as high as others they will see along the trip. We swung by the Spanish Steps and into the church at the top. Beautiful, but not as ornate. While at the Spanish Steps, ran into a Citadel graduate and his family. We have been wearing something from the Citadel each day…he spotted the bulldog on my shirt.
We headed toward the Treve, had dinner, and then gained a strategic spot at the fountain to be able to take photos at dark. Had a great conversation with a family from Atlanta that had all of their children go to Georgia Tech, but not in engineering! The students went out on the town after they returned. Late nights will catch up with them.
We traveled past the Forum to allow more discussion on how to use the space, and past the government building Vittorio Emanuele II with its grand columns. We then went through the Plaza Navana, which has three fountains with the center one featuring Neptune, and on to the piazza church that was small but had a lot of gold and included actual metal swords in the hands of marble angles. It also had a connection to the water tunnels under Rome, which initiated conversation about the continued process of using the running water stations throughout Italian towns to fill our water bottles. No matter the size, most piazzas have these continuously running water stations.
We crossed the Tevere River and looked at how green it was and led a discussion as to why it was so green (algae bloom, fertilizer), how is it possible in a river (weir to maintain water height for boats in drier season), and whether it could be filtered to use for drinking.
We looked at the architecture of the Plazzo di Gustivia, an incredible looking building for a government facility. Later we walked by Castel Sant’Anglo, used by Popes for living and protection, as we had reservations for the Vatican Museums. A couple of exhibits were closed for work, but it was still so impressive. The tour ended in the Sistine Chapel. We wanted to spend more time in the chapel, but was packed. We stayed as long as we could before heading out to the church. We climbed to the top of the dome and look down into St. Peter’s Cathedral, as well as the entire city of Rome. Five hundred fifteen steps – literally breathtaking! As we descended, we could see that we were able to be on the roof of a section of the church where there were a couple of shops. We had an ice cream and each picked up a post card, wrote a note and mailed it home. The trip down ended inside St. Peter’s Cathedral. Truly inspiring. Everyone was very tired after walking about 13.5 miles. We took the metro back to the hotel and stopped for the day. The students took naps before going out the town again.
This was a day to work on journals, analysis and designs, and to catch up on sleep. The lack of sleep on the trip over was really catching up with the entire group. Each student brought his or her work to me. I gave them their money for lunch and dinner, and for free time in the evening. Prior to them going out, I returned their evaluated work. Most needed more detail in their journals, and better sketches to use for their analysis and designs. Great work by three, average work for three and much improvement needed from two.
Travel to Venice. Checked in at Venice Mes Best Western Hotel Bologna. Traveled by train to Venice St. Lucia. Walked to Realto Bridge, walked to San Marco plaza, walked back, stopped for dinner along the way, and took train back to Venice Mes. Discussed SWEAT-T Plus as we walked through Venice, and discussed the differences between the infrastructures of Venice and Rome during dinner.
Travel to Venice San Lucia by train straight to San Marcos Piazza. Went up the tower. Mission: weight of tower…psi on the bricks. How was it built? What if there is a 0.5 and 1 percent lean to the tower? How does the stress change?
We went into the Basilica. Mission: there is a lot of distress seen in this church. Locate five points of distress and elaborate on why it is happening, how to correct them, and whether the structure can be stabilized. Lunch at restaurant Piccolo Marti.
Visited the Guggenheim museum. Ran into Joe Bove, a recent Citadel graduate and a classmate, at the museum. What a crazy coincidence. We walked by two of the universities in Venice while heading back to the train to Venice Mes. The fact that both were locked up tight on a Saturday that told us that the students most likely commute by train from Venice San Lucia or the surrounding towns. Gave students money for dinner on their own as they explored Venice Mes and visited with friends they had met in Venice club near the University of Rome.
Woke everyone up early to be the first at the laundry facility. Sunday’s are usually very busy. Once complete with laundry, free day to complete journals and analysis and designs. The tower designs were giving some problems. Working through it throughout the day. I took my first 2-hour nap.
Travel to Venice St. Lucia. Visited Santa Maria di Frari, dedicated to Mother Mary. The church was beautiful and different from those in Rome in that there were more statues versus paintings.
Next was a museum dedicated to Leonardo Di Vinci. We all went into the church next door…very nice, small, a number of points of distress. Still more statues than paintings. Lunch at Panifite Majer – grab and go. Went a sat beside the canal and along came Joe Bove again as he was heading to the train station.
We went to the La Fenice, the opera. Mission: study fire hazards, firefighting equipment, and egress. The opera house has burnt down three times but like the Phoenix, rises from the ashes. However, its fires have burned a number of residences. Now there are fire hydrants throughout the city. Headed back to San Marco Piazza to see the Palazzo Ducale San Marco – the palace. It started as a prison, and then converted to a palace with a section for a prison. The prison area was sobering…could see gondolas going by. The rooms on the top level were impressive to include the largest gathering space in Italy and the smaller room next door. The large room was gorgeous with the painted ceilings and walls. Truly stunning. The smaller room had portraits painted onto the walls just below the ceiling of each doga. The students enjoyed looking at the weapons from the palace to include the machine gun looking weapon, the very large swords, and they wondered who could wield them. The ticket also included the Museo Correr, which had paintings, sculptures, models of ships and buildings, coins, etc. We stopped and had dinner along the canal. We started shopping and then the rains came. Shops began to close quickly knowing the patrons were heading for cover. A few students returned to Venice to go to the casino that evening. It took them very little time to go through the $20 euros they planned to spend.
Travel to Turin and enjoyed an early breakfast. All working on journals, designs, and analysis problems on the train before sleep took over for most.
We had hoped to see The Citadel at night with an accompanying underground tour. However, it only available on Friday and Saturday’s. The student responsible for Turin missed the fine print, and so did I. So, we headed to the Egizo (Egyptian) museum. It is the largest Egyptian museum outside of Egypt. Truly mind blowing to see so many mummies and their sarcophagi, and to observe how they changed in design based on the influences of other cultures or who had conquer them. The process of preparation, items in the tomb, the writings inside the cover to protect, guide, and help them remember as they return to life. The fact they initially kept only the heart inside, threw away the brain, and placed the rest of the organs in a basket inside the tomb was interesting. Later they left all organs inside. The conversion of conquerors to the burial ways of the Egyptians was also very interesting. The effort Italy went through to make Turin the largest and best Egyptian collection outside of Egypt was truly inspiring. They did the same with Ufuzi in Florence for the renaissance period and Rome for the Roman Empire and the Catholic Church. The cost of maintenance and upkeep is huge; no wonder the price of entry is so high for tourists. Mission while in Turin: Compare and contrast water consumption U.S. vs. Italy. Is tap water safe in Italy? How many plastic bottles are discarded each day and what are the environmental Impact? How much energy is used to produce plastic bottles? How many homes/per year could you power with this energy? CO2 emissions resulting from bottle production?
There was discussion of the team taking a 90-minute train ride up into the lower Alps and go for a five-hour hike. The issues were the possible low temperatures and lack of actual hiking gear. Still some wanted to do the trip. Most of the other students were not sure they wanted to spend that much time traveling and hiking, especially when the trail left little opportunity for cutting it short.
Instead we headed out on a 33 minute train ride toward the Alps to Sant’ Abringio. As we approached the station, we could see the church (Saera Di San Michele) that we were going to hike up to on the mountain overlooking the town and valley. The trail left from the edge of the town and went start up the Scalone dei Marti (stairway of the dead) to the Saera Di San Michele – on Mt Pirchiriano. It took most of us 90 minutes to complete the hike up. There were 14 large stone crosses positioned along 80 percent of the trail to represent the Stations of the Cross. The trail was cut through the woods on the side of the hill. It was formed stone by stone, carried up by the workers. Three spots included running water points just like in the town piazzas
Onward we went and reached the church. The views were stunning. The ruins of the older church that was destroyed between around the 13 century were equally impressive. The sheer will power it took to build the church at this location was inspiring. This one of six churches from Rome to England in a straight line representing the line of protection from evil by Saint Michele. We made it back down in time to catch the next train back to Turin. Arrived back at 3 pm. Time to rest and journal.
We started the day with a nearly three-mile walk to the Museo Nationelle dell Automobile. It was a beautiful day and the walk worked out kinks after the long climb the day before. The museum kept all engaged for over three hours. Instead of walking back, especially with one with a sore ankle for twisting the day prior and the one still recovering from a stomach bug, we headed toward the metro. We stopped at a lovely cafe (Cafe Movie) across the street from the large hospital complex. After the metro ride back, the team was split about what to go see…Museo Nationelle dell Cinema or the palace. Therefore, I gave them money to go in different groups and have dinner on the way back while I reviewed everyone’s journals and analysis/designs. There were three in outstanding form…previous A students in class, two in recent form (missing a complete analysis and journal or two), and two needing a lot of work. I gave guidance as to what to do with my comments and that I would gather up the notebooks again at the end of the day in Florence to see completed work for missing sections, two more journals (today and tomorrow) and the completed analysis for the water use presented on 16 May (two had comply the work) as well as the transportation (light rail) analysis I expect to be completed on the taxi ride to Florence.
Travel to Florence. We were able to have a leisurely morning, catch the train, and arrive in Florence. The hotel was six minutes away from the station by foot. After we checked in, we were able to head straight to the Academia Museum and see the Statue of David, the plasterwork of a great artist, and instruments from the 1600 and 1700’s. Since we located a wash and dry, we all decided to make the best use of our time by cleaning our clothes. Mission: Public transportation in Italy including heavy rail, light rail, highway, subway, bus, bike, auto/motor bike, and walkways. The advantages and disadvantages from economic, social, political, environmental standpoints. Consideration of the energy needed to power the trains in Italy.
We caught the 8:30 train to Pisa. The students were surprises as we rounded the corner and saw the tower in the distance. A few felt it might be a quick day, but after seeing the church, baptistery, and burial area for bishops, we did not enter the tower until almost noon. They were blown away by the tilt in the floor as we entered. All spent time determining how it was being supported from the inside. I instructed all to pay close attention to the structure as we climbed the stairs up. A few felt a little dizzy based on the tight circles we were making as we climbed between the tower’s two walls. A few thought we were at the top, but we still had a narrow set of circular stairs to go to make it to the seven bells at the top. We took photos and then sat down to discuss the distress points we observed during the climb:
- The wear-pattern on the outside of the steps on the compression side of the tower and in the middle on the tensions side of the tower.
- The realized they wear being pushed to the outside and that it was getting harder to climb on the compression side. It was easier to climb on the tension side since they were being pushed toward the inside by gravity and tilt.
- They noticed that the mortar joint was very tight on the compression side while much wider on the tension side.
- More pop-outs of material on the compression side of the tower than the other side.
Mission: it is a globally famous engineering failure. What are the factors contributing to its leaning? How has it been stabilized? How much more leaning before fails? How much compression force on stone before it fails? Need lots of drawings for this one. Distress seen in the tower. Could we right the structure? Headed to Florence.
Departed for main part of Florence at 9:15. Went to market to get a feel for what people might want to purchase later. Headed to the bus terminal to purchase round trip tickets to Chianti de Greve, wine country, to experience another side of Florence and taste some wines. Next, we headed to the Palazza de Vecchio. First, we went into the museum and accompanying tower for the old government building. The museum had a large number of impressive rooms with paintings on the walls and ceilings. The grandeur was similar to the Venice, but much smaller and older. We climbed a large number of stairs to get to the top of the tower. Great views however, it was experiencing distress. The corner closest to Ponti Vecchio was tied to the tower with a metal strap. We could see similar distress in the same corner of the roof of the base for the tower. The ceiling was tied back to the central structure with a large number of metal rods and straps.
After lunch, we picked up the reserved tickets ordered by the student in charge of Florence and entered Uffici, the largest Renaissance collection of art and statues in the world. It was breathtaking, but at this point, a number of the students had seen all of the museums they cared to see. Still all found something of interest. From there we went around the corner to Ponti Vecchio. The students were impressed that it once was a meat market and now is a jewelry district. Mission: major bridge, now congested with foot traffic. Was the bridge designed for current loads? Why or why not? How are these loads supported and attached to the bridge?
Travel to vineyard. We boarded a bus at 8:30 to Chianti en Greve. The goal was to spend a portion of a day in the Tuscany countryside, taste some wine, experience the differences of a small town, and return to the bustling college/tourist town of Florence.
We walked to the center of town while looking at the shops and infrastructure. We located the water point in the town, which had a handle to prevent constant running. We filled our water bottles. After spending time in the shops and noting what they wanted to buy, we headed to Enote a Falorai, a wine tasting shop. We purchased snacks of bread, cheese, meat, and jelly to eat while wine tasting. What the students were amazed by were all of the brick arches in the underground shop. In addition, each bought a card for 5 euros. The amount of wine was about 1 ounce at a time and cost was from .64 to 3.5 euros depending on the wine. The students were rating the wines they tasted. Later, we headed back to the market square to have lunch before catching the bus for the hour ride back to Florence. We set a time for dinner and most went to “journal” which I am guessing was really naptime. Mission for the day: advantages and disadvantages of growing organic grapes. How much water is needed to cultivate 50 acres of Sangiovese grapes?
We started the day after breakfast and headed to Cattedral di San Maria deFiore, largest brick dome.
The difference here was the beauty was on the outside, and the very plain interior. Only the dome inside was decorated. A number of large cracks were under repair. We did not think we needed advance tickets for climbing up in the dome, but we were wrong. They were booked for the next two days. Most of the students were okay with it since we had climbed every dome and tower we encountered. We then headed to the Galileo Museum. Our mechanical engineer really enjoyed himself. We spent almost three hours there.
We headed to lunch close to our hotel…back to the same little restaurant we ate at the day we arrived because five of us wanted to have lasagna again. We were in luck- they had five servings left! At this point, I released the team to shop, complete journals, and rest. Mission: all assigned designs, analysis problems, and daily journals needed to be complete before leaving to go out on the town.
Travel to Rome. We were able to sleep in a little, grab breakfast and head to the train station. Students were getting a little tired of the pace, but much of that was due to the time they spend out at night. Mission on the train: compare and contrast Rome, Venice, Turin, and Florence using SWEAT-T, culture, infrastructure, architecture, air / water quality, and feelings.
After arriving, we headed to the Castel Sant’Angelo. This castle housed the pope for a period. It was cool to see how it was constructed based on the outside─ it was plain and ugly, but the inside was magnificent. We rode the metro each way to ensure we had time to see everything. Early night for the students since most were out late the night before and very early morning.
We were up at 4:30 a.m. and on the train at 5:30 headed to Naples. One student headed straight to the airport. He gave us updates throughout his trip until he was finally home. Once in Naples we immediately grabbed a train to Pompeii. We spend all morning in the ruins of Pompeii. I saw sections of it I did not see last time when we used a guide. Students were awed by how much had survived buried under ash for hundreds of years. Mission: how could you protect the village from lava? Ash? Earthquake/blast?
We jumped on a train back to Naples after doing some shopping near the entrance to Pompeii. Back in Naples, we grabbed lunch while waiting for one of the student’s cousins to meet us at the train station. She works for a construction company there. She lead us through Naples to see Castel St. Elmo, the very nice downtown section, the palace where a scene from Star Wars was filmed (princess coming down a staircase) and even was able to get us in after Castel Nuovo, though it had closed for the day. Her company does the renovation work on the castle. As we hopped on the metro to head back to the train station, we saw a section of the lower part of Castel Nuovo, which was uncovered for the construction of the new metro line.
After a long train ride, we arrived back in Rome at midnight. Everyone headed straight to bed.
Free day. Everyone was exhausted from the previous two days of travel and walking. A few went out to see some sites in Rome that only they wanted to see. Two tried to determine if it was possible to travel today to the Amalfi coast. They found that it was too expensive and time consuming, requiring seven hours of travel in order to spend three hours seeing the coast. All were to complete their journals and turn them in before going out in the evening, but they did not. So due tomorrow before going out.
Started after breakfast visiting the only crypt that still has bones in it: di Cripta de Partri Cappuicani (Capuchin Monks). The order brought back the mains of 4,000 monks to bury them in the basement of the church. One of their members used some of the bones to create a visual artwork about their mission. A few of us went to see three more churches: Chiesa di Maria Della Vitterea, Chiesa di Sant’Ignazio di Loyola, and Santa Maria Maggiore. All had the afternoon to pack, finish journals, shop, and prepare to leave tomorrow.
Time to go home. Breakfast, meet in lobby, travel to the train station, catch 8:35 train to airport, check in luggage, clear customs, grab lunch and board plane by noon. Mission during the first hour on the flight home: most and least favorite parts of the trip? What would you change if you were in charge? Based on your experience, would you spend id=”mce_marker”500 or the cost of a summer course plus the travel cost to participate again in a study abroad experience like this? The overwhelming answer – YES!