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MEMS Summer Education Program Brings American-Korean Worlds Together
August 8, 2011
Showcasing Talents: Taking a break from their studies,
students from Korea's
Seoul National University of Science & Technology sang their
rendition of "Let It
Be" during the "Rose-Hulman/Korea's Got Talent" show.
When Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology professor Michael
McInerney taught Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) courses in
Korea, he noted that his international students suffered from a
lack of opportunities for hands-on experiences in
"I found it difficult to get access to a laboratory," the
physics and optical engineering professor noted of sabbatical
during a 2008-2009 academic year at the Northumbria
University-Newcastle (UNN) program at Korea's Seoul National
University of Technology (Seoul Tech).
The UNN program is an undergraduate engineering degree, jointly
accredited by the United Kingdom's Northumbria University and Seoul
Tech, in which all courses after the freshman year are taught
in English. McInerney thought his Korean students would
benefit from a summer educational program in which they could gain
some hands-on MEMS experience, while also improving their English
Exchanging Ideas: Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
student Heather Knapp,
an optical engineering major, helps two visiting Korean students
solve a problem.
Knapp served as one of the mentors for this summer's
So, that's why Rose-Hulman's Department of Physics and Optical
Engineering has provided a multi-faceted educational experience
over a four-week period to a group of Korean students during the
past two years. This year's group was expanded to
include 20 students.
An Introduction to MEMS course is similar to one taught to
Rose-Hulman undergraduate students, with a strong laboratory
component and an opportunity to work in a Clean Room laboratory
environment. The Korean students also received English
language instruction through Indiana State University's Department
of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics.
Out of the classroom, there were also extracurricular activities
designed to give the visiting students a taste of American
"This was a very structured visit. The classes are
Rose-Hulman courses for credit. (The Korean students) are
actually registered Rose-Hulman students. That's what
distinguishes this summer program from many of the others,"
McInerney says. He was joined in teaching the MEMS course by
colleague Azad Siahmakoun, director of Rose-Hulman's facilities for
micro-nanoscale devices and systems.
But it was not all work for the Korean contingent. There
was also time for play. After all, the visiting students
sought a well-rounded educational and cultural experience.
"People don't come on their summer vacation to go to school,"
Rose-Hulman students served as hosts, tour guides and directors
for the Korean students' extracurricular activities. These
included trips to the Holiday World theme and water park, Warren
Dunes State Park, Chicago and, even, excursions to Terre Haute's
Walmart story. There were also canoe trips, a shopping trip
to an outlet mall, and visits to Rose-Hulman students' homes for
That's Entertainment: Students from Rose-Hulman Institute of
Korea's Seoul National University of Science & Technology
enjoyed singing, dancing,
art and Tae Kwon Do demonstrations during a recent talent
It was an experience mutually beneficial to students from both
countries. The Rose-Hulman students received a valuable taste
of another culture.
"I like (the Korean students') perspective on things. They
see things differently than we do," commented Rose-Hulman student
advisor Allison Tharp.
"They take their relationships a lot more seriously," observes
advisor Sadie Geerligs.
English instructor Kate Zimmer devoted about 10 hours a week
during the summer program to help the Koreans improve their
language skills. Rather than traditional classroom
instruction, however, Zimmer used a variety of interactive
exercises to engage the students and make lessons fun.
"The whole goal of the class was mainly to get them speaking,
learning new vocabulary and idioms," Zimmer explains.
Students were required to speak English during class time.
"If they didn't speak English they had to sing a song," she
"My plan is to get a job in the car industry. So, I need
the MEMS process," Korean visitor Sak Lee explained. While
the laboratory experiences were good, he also enjoyed learning
about American culture. In Korea, Lee says, relationships
between generations are more formal in nature. Familiarity
between older and younger people is rare.
"I was comfortable with Dr. McInerney and other professors," Lee
said. "I never make friendships with professors (in Korea),"
he adds. "It is so good!"
Hyunduk Shin, another Korean student, agreed that the blending
of academics and cultural immersion is what made Rose-Hulman's
summer program an outstanding experience.
"The lab experiments were really great. I enjoyed
them! I couldn't experience that in Korea," he said.
"In Korea, we intensively memorize and study. Here, we do a
lot of activities that are fun and help us to learn English.
Learning American culture was the best experience."