Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cultural Training 1/29/2010

Introduction by Jane
For our first cultural training, we prepared in multiple ways.
  • First, each of us were asked to read the items listed below. These texts begin to explore what it means to "do work" in international contexts and provided us with introductions to Norway written from a variety of different perspectives.
  • Second, each student also had additional research and/or blogging responsibilities. For example, as part of the interview process to determine the 2010 ICEX team, candidates had been asked to offer explanations for the different reactions in Norway and the United States to the awarding of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama. To better understand the reasons behind the selection of Obama by the Norwegian committee, one of the research assignments for this first cultural training focused on the history of the Nobel Peace Prize and European perspectives on the United States both before and after the election of Obama in 2008.
  • Third, our first cultural training was a Norwegian "pot-luck" = More research + Cooking!
  1. Gary Downey et al (2006), "The Globally Competent Engineer: Working Effectively with People Who Define Problems Differently. Journal of Engineering Education 95(April)2:107-122. (pp. 1-4).
  2. Terri Morrison & Wayne Conaway (2006). "Norway." From Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands: The Best-selling Guide to Doing Business in 60 Countries, 2nd edition.
  3. Norway Exports (2007). "Efficient, Family-Friendly, and Postcard Perfect" + "Finding the Right Balance" in Career in Norway: Live, Work, Enjoy (pp. 10-15).
  4. Norwegian Center for International Cooperation in Higher Education (no date; retrieved Dec 2009). A Brief Guide to Living in Norway.
  5. Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2009). Mini-facts about Norway.
  6. Statistics Norway (2009). This is Norway: What the Figures Say.

Blog Post by Alex
Chris and his wife hosted our first Cultural Training session and dinner Friday night at their house. Some of the delicious food included: salmon, lasagna, fried rice, curried lamb and Potje De Garbanzo Con Acelga (Chickpea Soup with Spinach). For desert we had almond cake, black pepper cookies and fresh berries.

Between the amazing dinner and desert we discussed a few aspects of Norwegian culture that could be relevant to our trip there. Frank started us off with some information about the Sami people of northern Scandinavia. There are about 60,000 Sami within Norway and they have a complex history as a people but their flag was only recently inaugurated.

From there we moved to a discussion of the Nobel Peace Prize lead by Jessie. All of the other Nobel prizes are awarded in Sweden, Alfred Nobel's home country. While no one knows for sure why Alfred Nobel decided to have the Nobel Peace Prize awarded in Norway the most popular theory states that he thought that Norway was a lot less militaristic than Sweden was at the time. After that we discussed the awarding of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples" (2009 Nobel Peace Prize).

That subject led to a discussion of Nuclear weapons vs Nuclear energy and the pros and cons of different types of nuclear power plants. We had to cut this discussion short to make sure we didn't skip anything on the agenda.

We then learned from Greg that the differences between the two main forms of Norwegian (Bokmål and Nynorsk) developed in different geographical locations within Norway. Bokmål was used mainly in the cities with Danish background while Nynorsk was used mainly in the western rural areas of Norway. He also told us that each geographical region has its own Bunad or traditional costume. This reminded me of the different traditional costumes that permeate the various regions of Greece. Each one is unique and goes along with a unique dance in the case of Greece and dialect in Norway.

After Greg finished, Kevin gave us an abridged version of Norway's history. And then he started a discussion on how Norwegians differentiate themselves from the other Scandinavian countries. Toughness, self-sufficiency, independence, egalitarianism, and humanitarianism are some dominant images of the Norwegian culture that we agreed on after our discussion.

Chris spent some time throughout the night telling us about his trip to the Arctic earlier this month and described his cultural experiences up there for us. It sounds like we're going to have an awesome time and we're all really looking forward to it.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Introduction: Jane Lehr

Morn! My name is Jane Lehr, and I am the cultural advisor for the ICEX 2010 trip. This spring, we are traveling to the Sletvik Field Station of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology as part of the NORUS Project, an educational and research collaboration between partners in North America and Norway that is focused on technology development for marine monitoring and ocean observation.

I am an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Ethnic Studies and Women's & Gender Studies at Cal Poly. I received my PhD (2006) and MS (2002) in Science & Technology Studies from Virginia Tech, with concentrations in the social, cultural, and political studies of science and technology, and Women's Studies. In 2005-06, I had the opportunity to work as a Post-Doctoral Research Officer in the NSF-funded Center for Informal Learning and Schools (CILS) in the Department of Education and Professional Studies at King's College London.

My research and teaching primarily explore the relationships between science and engineering education, scientific and technical literacies, practices of personal and public decision-making, and issues of social justice and social responsibility. While at Virginia Tech, I was privileged to work directly with Dr. Gary Downey, a leader in the growing field of Engineering Studies. Scholarship in Engineering Studies focuses on the comparative study of engineers and engineering in different historic and contemporary national contexts.

I am very excited to work with the ICEX team this year for a number of reasons. Primarily, I want to support the students’ efforts to gain experiences working as global engineers by facilitating their explorations of the ways in which social, cultural, political, and economic factors can matter in defining and shaping engineering education and practice. Secondly, I am exploring the possibility of developing a course at Cal Poly that would focus on the meanings, challenges, and strengths of engineering in an increasingly diverse and globalized workplace and world and in the context of significant contemporary societal challenges and transformations. Working with the ICEX students this year will help shape that project. I also am excited to learn more about and visit Norway!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Introduction: Jessie Klemme

Hi, my name is Jessie Klemme and I an a 1st year Environmental Engineer at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. I love the outdoors from riding ATVs in the desert to going dogsledding in the Minnesota wilderness. I also love to travel, play waterpolo, and volunteer with Girl Scouts. I enjoy doing things that I believe are going to make a difference in some way, which is why I am thrilled to be a part of this team.

When declaring my major I was unsure which discipline of engineering to choose because I wanted to create mechanisms that could help improve the environment, but I found that required many different disciplines combined. ICEX, to me, is a way to see a path my career may take because it is combining my passion for robotics, environmental issues, and travel. I have experience in robotics, but with this opportunity I will learn much more about how to prepare robots for the real world, not just a planned competition like I am accustomed to. I have traveled to other countries, but every culture has their own customs and practices which I find fascinating. Overall I am excited because people of like minds and enthusiasm are joining together to work on a project that I know will be an unforgettable experience.

Introduction: Frank Schreiber

My name is Frank and I am a senior mechanical engineering student also completing a minor in computer science at Cal Poly. My interests are automobiles, robotics, hiking and traveling. Along with ICEX I am in a group building an autonomous car for the Natcar competition ( and conducting research in the mechanical engineering department in engineering education. I have presented at two different American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) conferences through my mechanical engineering research.

I am very excited to travel to a new country and learn about the Norwegian culture. Everything that I have herd so far makes this sound like a great experience for everyone attending. Through ICEX I would like to become more technical in my area of research and hopefully gain knowledge to assist in my education research as well.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Introduction: Kevin Hall

Hi! My name is Kevin Hall and I am a 3rd year Mechanical Engineering student at Cal Poly. My interests include snowboarding, triathlon, soccer, robotics, and being in the outdoors. I have long been fascinated by robotics and am fortunate enough to be active with robots daily. I recently started a project with the Cal Poly Robotics Club to develop and build and autonomous helicopter that I am particularly excited about.

The ICEX 2010 trip is going to be an amazing experience. Having never been outside of North America, I am excited to travel to Norway and participate in this research. Being my first research experience in an international setting, the ICEX program will offer a great introduction to a new culture, people, and country. From what I have already learned about Norway, we have very much to look forward to. I am also very excited for the actual research we will be performing in Norway. Using robots to perform tasks that were previously difficult or impossible for people to accomplish is what robotics is all about, and I hope this project's research helps make progress towards solving the problem at hand.

Introduction: Alex Xydes

My name is Alex Xydes, and I'm a 4th year Computer Science major at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. I love hiking, soccer, traveling and reading, and Greek dancing. I'm currently researching the ethical implications of autonomous combat robots, and Shark tracking via underwater robots. Along with my research I'm very interested in applying Artificial Intelligence to robotics. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to interacting with intelligent people and to traveling to an exciting part of the world. I'm also excited to enjoy a new culture, the food, the people, the places and everything else. I hope to gain experience in international engineering and teaching during this program. I'm also hoping to experience some exciting research involving robotics and using robots to solve unique problems.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Introduction: Chris Clark

Hello! My name is Chris and I am the technical advisor on the ICEX 2010 trip. I have been teaching and/or researching robotic systems since 1996 and am excited to participate in the Norway trip. I hope to advance my research on the trip, but more importantly provide students with a new engineering experience that serves the needs of biologists. Ultimately, I hope to learn more about biological sampling in the marine environment, and how robots can be used in novel ways for such applications.

Professors, Students Heading Home from January Arctic Research Project

From the Jan 27, 2010 Cal Poly Report Employee Newsletter
Cal Poly Biology Professor Mark Moline, Computer Engineering Professor Christopher Clark and their students were scheduled to come home from the Arctic this week. The professors brought their collection of marine robots and two Cal Poly students to Norway to study the underwater Arctic ecosystem in January in collaboration with Norwegian biologists. Their two-week expedition to Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard, was funded through the Norwegian Government, National Geographic, and the United States' National Science Foundation. The professors and students worked with divers, Autonomous Underwater Vehicles, a Remotely Operating Vehicle, and an ocean bottom crawler.
Details on the Svalbard expedition

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Introduction: Greg Manyak

Hi everyone, I am currently a fourth year computer engineering student and I have been accepted into Cal Poly's "4+1" graduate program, in Electrical Engineering. I have been excited about this trip since I first heard about it nearly a year ago, when I heard from a professor that there were musings that the next ICEX trip being in Norway.

I have been interested in visiting the country of Norway for quite a while, as a result of my interest in their fascinating folklore and amazing culture (did you know Norway has the number one quality of life in the world?). I really hope to learn more about what makes Norway such a wonderful place to live, get some hands on experience working with international engineers, and also how to utilize robots to solve problems. I've also never been outside of North America, so I am really looking forward to experiencing a different culture.

In general, I am very interested in embedded systems and digital design. I have been working with the on campus satellite group, PolySat, for the past 2 years on a variety of embedded projects, so I am also excited to get another taste of embedded design on the robots!