Rysensteen Gymnasium: Denmark comes to NU

Yesterday, on September 24th, 2018, a group of 28 high school seniors and their two teachers from the Rysensteen Gymnasium in Copenhagen, Denmark visited Northeastern for a look at the engineering facilities and people on campus. This field trip was organized by the Center for STEM Education, Luis Frias, and Professor Beverly Kris Jaeger-Helton.

The day started with a tour of the First Year Engineering Learning Center, as well as a chance to talk to Professor and Director of the First Year Engineering Program, Sue Freeman.

After this tour and chat, the students visited the Civil Engineering department’s Earthquake Lab, where Ugurcan, a PhD student in Geotechnical/Geoenvironmental Engineering, taught the students about harmonic frequency and how to design a building to resist an Earthquake. A building needs to have diagonal cross-beams to divide the force of the earthquake into multiple directions, and needs to be both flexible and sturdy: if it’s too flexible, it wobbles and collapses and if it’s too stiff, the whole structure collapses during an earthquake. Using what they learned, the students worked in teams to design, build, and test a 4-story tower out of K-NEX, which was put to the test on the shake table. Some interesting designs from these students, including one that slightly bent the rules and built a cantilevered, 2-story design. Despite looking like it would be pretty sturdy, this design failed spectacularly in the 2nd round, alongside two of the other designs. Ultimately, none of the towers survived, as the strength of the Earthquake simulated was increased and all the towers collapsed.

The students ate lunch in the International Village Dinning Hall, which was an exciting experience for the students, who were amazed at the all-you-can-eat style cafeteria, particularly since their high school doesn’t have a cantine (their word for cafeteria): instead, the students buy individual meals at cafes in Copenhagen. When they learned that the lunch at IV was $15, which to most students here is pretty expensive, they said for them that was pretty cheap, since the food in Copenhagen is very expensive. Talking to the students/teachers about schools in Denmark was very eye-opening for me (Nick), for a variety of reasons. The school system goes grades 1-9, then an optional 10th grade, followed by high school grades 11, 12, and 13. The high schools are either general education (this school), engineering or topic-specific, or a professional/vocational school (which are much more common than in America). The students all take the same classes (mostly) and are with each other way more throughout the class day than students in America are. The two teachers who visited were the homeroom/physics teacher and the math teacher. These students are just one of 13 senior classes at their school: part of the school’s global learning is for their seniors to visit countries around the world and meet new people and see new environments, from China to South Africa to the USA (this class). The students all take English as a language, and the only indicator that English isn’t their first language is their accents (because they spoke the language flawlessly). In addition, the students take a foreign language, either German or French, which was nice for me, since I got to practice my German with some students.

After stuffing themselves with “the most amazing food ever”, the students went back to campus and split up into groups for 30 minutes to work on a video project, in which the groups went around campus to interview NU students, professors, and other people about Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and Big Data: for example, one group’s topic was about the fear of automation and it’s impact on society and the work force.

Afterwards, the students came back and took a campus tour with Luis Frias, who often gives campus tours for Engineering Wednesdays. The students and their teachers went into ISEC, took a walk-through of the Egan labs, as well as visiting other sites around campus. All in all, the visiting students and teachers got a taste of Northeastern University and Boston, whilst we got a glimpse of life in a Danish high school.