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Gaining Perspective: Students from QiMing College, Wuhan China, Join Operation Catapult

July 20, 2011

All    
Floor: Li Jianqiang (Harry); Front left to right: Li Shuo (Sure), Song Yang (Micheal),
Li Lihang  (Calm); Back left to right: Cheng Xinyu (Albert), Zhong Guohui (Jerry),
Feng Haotian (Tian)
   
     

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"Most of the time Chinese students don't know what career to choose; they don't know what major to choose," said Chinese college student Li Jianqiang, called "Harry" by his American acquaintances.

He and his student project team from China's QiMing College of HUST (Huazhong University of Science and Technology) came to Rose-Hulman to observe the interaction of professors and students during the summer program for high school students, Operation Catapult. The QiMing students will then take the principles of the Catapult program back to their University in China.

QiMing feature    
Li Jianqiang speaks about higher education in China    
     

In August, Dr. Patricia Brackin, professor of mechanical engineering, Michael Robinson, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Jianjian Song, associate professor of electrical engineering will travel back to China with the visiting students to help them set up a program similar to Operation Catapult.

For Song, it is a trip back to his alma mater, where he received a B.S. in radio engineering in 1982. Having been the original liason between the two schools, Song will be assisting the team to run the inaugural 10-day summer camp.

"The theme of the camp is Teaming and Creativity in Engineering," Song reported.

According to Li, feeder programs like Catapult, designed to offer high school students insights or guidance towards a career field, are a rarity. It's a concept they'd like to import to China.

"We can set up kind of activities like Operation Catapult in our University to attract more students to come here; to help them know what they're interested in and what career they're interested in," Li said.

     
chinese studentsetrwebsite  

Li and his teammates also admire the system in which students can design their own experiments or pursue their own theories.

"I experience a lot based on American students," said Song Yang, the member of the QiMing team known as Michael. "They have a free imagination and ideas."

The Chinese visitors said that while Chinese higher education is strong on imparting information, it's a relative newcomer to imparting the ideals of innovation.

"In our country, more of the exercises may be about knowledge, but in America it is more about the practice or the project," said Cheng Xinyu, (English name, Albert).

Li Shuo talks about the uniqueness of Catapult    

QiMing College is in the fore of Chinese colleges dedicated to innovation, and its student teams have taken many awards. As a result, the school is extremely competitive, admitting only the very top students from across the nation of well over a billion.

"QiMing College is a platform to compete, do projects and innovate," said team member Li Lihang, AKA Calm.

Director of Rose-Hulman's Operation Catapult, Brackin said visiting Rose-Hulman is an experience that is unique for the Chinese students as well as the American students involved in Catapult.

"My main hope for doing this is that we all see that working together with multiple perspectives we get a better perspective," she said. "I hope we all take away that we have something to offer and we can help each other."

Brackin said she is looking forward to mixing the hands-on environment of Rose-Hulman with China's emphasis on theory.

"Theory without practice doesn't work, but practice without theory is very inefficient," she said. "Putting them together, you see the strengths of both and you see why you need both."

The trip also represents a monumental amount of planning. In Wuhan City, where QiMing college is located, availability of many technical materials is limited to the wholesale market. You can't just run out to an automotive parts store, Brackin said.

As Catapult continues, the Chinese students mingle with the visiting high school students, Rose-Hulman students and professors, not only observing the progress of the projects but also participating in the work and assisting in problem solving. This is especially true for the technical equipment.

"We can show them how the stuff works, from our experience," said Li Lihang.

To Brackin, just having different cultures working together on campus makes it more exciting. It also means a lot for Rose-Hulman.

"That there are people who are willing to spend the amount of money that they spent just to come see what we do is a really big honor," she said.

For more about QiMing College of HUST, visit their website.