Field Trips!

What do you get when you bring engineers to Florence?

They find their way to the Galileo museum, of course!

Today, our final day in the Brilliant country that is Italy, we had our last lecture as a class, and completed the last item on the itinerary before we departed back to Rome for the night. We had a little bit of time before we had to meet at the museum; some of us stayed back to get some work done, others spent their remaining euros in the markets of Florence.

As for today’s main event: Museo Galileo! We were self-guided through this wonderful museum situated right on Arno River.


It’s safe to say we ‘enginerds’ were enthralled by the experience.

Some of my favorites and the highlights included:

The armillary sphere

Still under the impression that the universe revolved around the earth, this sphere has a multitude of rings surrounding the earth in the middle. Each ring depicts the orbit of another planet. The sphere moves as a crank is turned near the base.

Inclined plane

Ah, physics, our old friend. This instrument has bells places at different intervals in increasing odd units (1,3,5,7). Since we know the acceleration is constant as the ball rolls down the plane, it rings the bells at times that occur simultaneously as the pendulum (swinging from the right side) swings- genius! It was one of the earliest machines that timed oscillations.


Some of these telescopes used octagonal and cylindrical tubing, as well as a variety of materials including leather, cardboard, and wood. Some of these telescopes include the first use of two identical convex lenses to refract the image back to normal (instead of upside down).

Thunder house

These miniature models of houses experimented with the idea of grounding electricity. A mock lightning would be created by a laydon jar, which creates a current sent directly to the lightning rod. Inside the house is a little metal ball containing gunpowder. When the lighting rod was not fully connected to the ground, the current would blow the house apart in conjunction with the gunpowder. However, when the lightning rod was completely grounded, the current was completely dissipated.

Twin barrel air pump

An old vacuum! The dual air pump was set in motion by the crank, resulting the air in the glass jar (on top) being sucked out, creating a vacuum. Many experiments were done in this type of apparatus: Suffocation of small animals (excuse the harsh details), extinguishing flames, and stifling the sound of a bell.

Elastic and Inelastic collisions

This wonderfully crafted device allowed for many experiments to be run of a multitude of variables. The balls, strung from a bar at even heights, would consist of either ivory for elastic collisions, and wet clay for inelastic collisions.



Field Trips!

Marble Quarries + The Leaning Tower of Pisa

Hello to everybody back home! Only a couple more days until we will be reunited! Our last few days are still packed with excitement.

A mountain of marble!

Today, we woke up bright and early to see the Carrara Marble Quarries. After an almost two-hour bus ride, we picked up our tour guide and headed into the massive marble mountains. On our way, we passed lots of Carrara marble companies. Our guide informed us that the Romans founded this marble-dependent society here in the 2nd century BCE. Thus, the culture continues to revolve around marble so many years later.

Our group listening intently to our tour guide.





Carrara’s marble industry involves 1200 quarry men, 700 truck drivers, 3 valleys for excavation, and a grand total of 188 quarries!

The chain of mountains is exclusively composed of white marble. Composed of 99.99% of calcium carbonate, this marble is used for more than floor tiles and countertops. According to our guide, many glycerin-based cosmetic products are made white using this fancy marble dust. The powder is also used in osteoporosis medication and some cleaning supplies.

We are under a mountain! How crazy is that?

After taking a short stroll through the mountains (and even witnessing a cluster of marble fragments tumble down the side of a peak), we hopped in vans and drove into the heart of these mountains. When I say into these mountains, I mean literally inside of these mountains. Our second tour was located 400 meters below the top and 600 meters from the side of a mountain. Inside, we learned about the extraction process of Carrara marble. We learned that the marble crystals form only parallel and orthogonal to one another allowing for the excavation of large cohesive blocks of marble. We saw a few of the huge blades that are used to cut slices into the walls of marble. I, personally, found the diamond wire tool most impressive. Attached to a fly-away machine, this wire is wrapped around the marble in the groove or cut made by the large blades. Once secured, the machine rotates the wire at speeds greater than 150 km/hour to completely detach the chunk of marble.

Troy and Jim testing out the equipment!

Lucas and Connor with some marble samples!










As we explored these marble mountain caves, a few of us grabbed a couple sample fragments. The prices for this sparkling, white marble ranges from €200-7500, but our guide explained that €3,000/ton is typical.

After finishing up in Carrara, we headed to Pisa to check out some tower. Just kidding! This is had been something I’ve been looking forward to all month! The famous Leaning Tower of Pisa did not disappoint. Tilting at a small, yet still very significant 5 degrees, this banana-shaped tower is still standing. It even continued to stand as we took this picture of most of our class at the top! Phew! I was a little worried! We impressed our tour guide with our knowledge of the tower’s construction and the engineering techniques required to stabilize the structure.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa has remained at a consistent 5 degrees since 2001! Back before 2001, there were some serious concerns with the rate that the tower’s tilt was increasing. Many engineers worked together to reduce the tilt from 5.5 degrees to 5 degrees and to keep it at 5 degrees. Our guide joked that the tourism industry prayed that the tower wouldn’t be set straight because they’d be out of jobs if that was the case! We were reminded of some of the information we learned at The University of Naples about the complexity of Pisa’s soil and the reliance on counterweights to stabilize the structure. Some of us climbed the Leaning Tower of Pisa at sunset. It was gorgeous!

In addition to seeing this special tower, we also saw a baptistery, a church, and a cemetery during our time in Pisa. Overall, it was a fabulous day!

A floor of tombs and some walls covered with frescos!

I know many of us are starting to feel the lure of our own beds and the comfort of home, but I know that at least I am starting to get very sentimental about all of the relationships and the memories that have developed in these last 21 days.

Check back tomorrow to see how we continue to savor our last days in Italia!

Field Trips!

Keeping up with the engineers

Hi all! I come bearing not one, but two days worth of stories, lessons, and newsworthy events.

Yesterday, we enjoyed time under the tuscan sun in Siena and San Gimignano; two beautiful smaller towns about 90 minutes outside of Florence. We started in Siena, the larger of the two towns, and took a short tour with our guide, Federica. She brought us to the San Dominicano church, which was a new style than the typical churches we’ve seen in the past few weeks. In fact, a lot of the architecture here boasts a more gothic feel. We then walked through some of the 17 districts of Siena, each of them having their own main church and even their own flag. We also got to see the town square in which they hold their famous horse race twice every summer. She explained that through a lottery system, 10 horses are chosen randomly for 10 districts each race. It is a huge celebration that involves a feast and many other celebrations before and after the races. In fact, Federica’s district of Lupa, the She-Wolf, was chosen the same horse and to be entered in both races this past summer, and won both times. Statistically speaking, this is very rare- and she was proof that it was a very exciting feat. After our tour, we roamed the streets of Siena, which is situated on three hills. Siena has an underground tunnel system in which ancient merchants used to use to get around easier, since bringing carts up the hills was a difficult task. Another wonderful engineering idea from long, long ago!

More brick and less marble! San Dominicano Church from afar.

After Siena, we hopped back on the coach to San Gimignano-which is undoubtedly the cutest small town I have ever seen. Once an old trading post, the town’s postcard image is of it’s towers. The families of the town used to build towers as a sign of power or wealth, and eventually, there was a rule put in place that they were to stop building towers. So now, there are 14 towers left- one of which we climbed- the Torre Grossa. While it was much shorter than Brunelleschi’s dome or the bell tower, it provided unbelievable views of the countryside that Tuscany is so well known for. Here are some shots I took while 54 meters up:

And for the final event on Sunday, a wine tasting! We became chemists for the night as we visited Tenuta Torciano Winery. Luigi, the owner, gave us a little run down of the process behind growing grapes for the wine, and olives for the (you guessed it) olive oil. We learned that the pH in the soil here is low, which means there is no fat in the olive oil, and no acidity in the wine-yay! They also brew their wine to eliminate sulfates, which alleviates the chemicals that produce hangovers. After our quick chemistry lesson, we were put to work! (It was pretty tough stuff, let me tell ya!) We sampled different types of wines, as Luigi and his son demonstrated how to swish, sniff and sip the wine in order to get the full effect of the grape. Each grape has many different qualities that make it unique- and we learned that different grapes even produce different smells when swished! Definitely a glass-half full kind of day!

Monday morning came quick, and we found ourselves back on the coach on our way to the Lamborghini and Ducati factories. We definitely had our engineering hats on today! We were guided through the Lamborghini factory, where they were producing their Aventador and Huracan models. With V10 and V12 engines, and horsepower up in the 600’s, these cars are nothing short of fantastic. We were not allowed to take photos in the factories as to protect the worker’s privacy, so you’re going to have to take my word on the attention to detail and intricacy of the production line- only about 5-6 Aventadors are produced each day, and around 11 Huracans. After the tour of the factory and spending a little bit of time looking (gawking) in the museum, a few of us chose to test drive a Huracan- definitely something to cross off your bucket list!

Lamborghini’s on parade

Checking out what makes these cars hum

We finished off our day at the Ducati factory. These high end sport bikes are as incredible as you’d imagine! We were brought along the assembly line for several model types- the organization and operations of these factories was very well thought out and swiftly executed! We got to enjoy seeing the engine start for the first time, a simulated road test, a cO2 emissions test, among many other important aspects of automotive production. Again, no pictures… it was so cool- I promise!

That’s all for today! Just a few more days before we find ourselves back home! Until then, Ciao!

Field Trips!

Stairway to Heaven

Hello from Florence! We just wrapped up our first full day in this beautiful city. Seriously, prepare yourself for some of these views! Before we get to that, let’s start at the beginning of our day.

First thing after breakfast, we gathered in a meeting room to hear Professor Roberto Corazzi speak on the Filippo Brunelleschi and his engineering strategy and design of the Duomo of Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. The Florence Cathedral began construction in 1296 and was completed in 1436, a period of 140 years. The reason for the long delay was the cathedral dome, called the Duomo, was the largest dome ever built.

Brunelleschi suggested an octagon drum, thus directing the weight on to the massive piers. Without the need to center the dome, it was constructed similarly to an arch with straight sections of the dome’s panels as flat arches between the main ribs (this angle was about 4 degrees). We also learned all about the importance of the herringbone brick pattern in stabilizing the structure and reducing thrust.

After learning all about Brunelleschi and the construction of the Duomo, we headed into the heart of Florence. We stopped at Galleria Dell Accademia to see the Michelangelo’s famous statue of David. This Renaissance masterpiece was created between 1501 and 1504. It is a 17-foot tall statue of solid Carrara marble. How interesting! (Many of us are experiencing severe Gino withdrawals, so please excuse the excessive use of his phrases and any pictures with his face photoshopped into them.)

By 2:00 pm, we had set foot inside the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. Only some of us were aware of the 463 stairs that needed to be climbed in order to reach the top of the Duomo (maybe that was a good thing). It was quite the hike! Steep, concrete spiral staircases seemed to never end, but we finally made it to the top. It was absolutely breathtaking! Incredibly far from the ground, super crowded, and very windy, our experience caused a bit of anxiety for those afraid of heights, but we all survived. A group of us even ate some chocolate as we enjoyed a bird’s eye view of Florence!

Afterwards, we had the rest of the afternoon to ourselves. A group of us went to an Italian pub with a great collection of vinyl records called Move On. It was a blast!

An even smaller group of us spontaneously chose to climb the 414 stairs to the top of the bell tower right before sunset. What an amazing view! (See picture at the top of the page for the picture of city and sunset from the bell tower.) We even had the treat of hearing the bell ring while we were still inside!

It was an incredible day! We’re off to Sienna and San Gimignano tomorrow! Be sure to check back for our wine tasting adventure!




Field Trips!

Straight Outta Naples

As we wrap up our (short) time in Naples, we spent the day over at University of Naples- Federico II. Founded in 1224, it was the first state university in the world. While the school has 4 different schools and 26 departments, we (obviously) found ourselves in the Dipartmento di Strutture per I’Ingegneria e I’Architettura: The Department of Structural Engineering and Architecture.

Here’s a (brief) run-down of the topics covered today:

  • Tower of Pisa with Carlo Viggiani, professor of geotechnical engineering
    • Professor Viggiani explained how the Tower of Pisa leans due to lack of geotechnical engineering and soil mechanics knowledge during its construction.
    • Construction was halted multiple timed due to economic or political reasons. During these periods of 90-100 years each, the soil had shifted underneath the tower, causing it to lean.
    • The soil in the area, due to its proximity to the sea, is made up of multiple layers of clay and sand, which shifts and compresses easily. Knowing what we know now about soil mechanics, a tower of this size would not be constructed in the area.
    • Throughout the last few centuries, as towers around Europe and Italy had been collapsing, there were many commissions formed to determine the best solution as to correcting the lean. Some of the attempted methods included: Liquid nitrogen freezing of the soil, pumping water into the soil, and anchoring the higher side of the tower deep into the soil, among many other ideas generated by these committees.
    • The winning solution was to under excavate the soil below the north side of the tower. As Carlo pointed out, this solution was the most effective in reducing the slant, as well as keeping the integrity and respect of Pisa alive. He would know, as he was a part of the commissions since the 60’s!
  • Earthquakes and Protection of Cultural Heritage in the Mediterranean with Federico M. Mazzolani, professor of structural engineering.
    • As Italy is very on the edge of three tectonic plates, Eurasian, African, and Arabian, it is highly important to study the effects of earthquakes and seismic activity.
    • Professor Mazzolani explained to us how Italy is a part of many other nations along the Mediterranean sea who joined together to study old, famous, and historical structures that may be at risk of collapse should an earthquake happen.
    • This group of researches would make scale models of buildings and monuments, and place them upon shake-tables (see picture below) and study where damage and even collapse would occur if there was seismic movement. They would use computer imaging to illustrate points of stress, and come up with solutions to further secure the areas of concern. In a few cases, the buildings they studied actually implemented their solutions, like vertical and horizontal cable reinforcements.

After lecture, we got to tour their structures lab! (Again, as I am a future civil engineering major, I was nerd-ing out).

A view from the classroom window of the lab below. One feature of the lab was the strong floor- seen as little squares for the machinery to anchor to. This makes for stable and secure placement when machinery is in use, and flexibility of movement when needed.

A masonry wall set up for a seismic simulation featuring somebody’s blurry hand… oops!

The largest hydraulic press in Europe- up to 5,000 tons! The professors reassured us, “We don’t put students in here!”

A masonry wall set up on top of a shake table

Now thats more our size!

All smiles in the structures lab!

That’s a wrap, Napoli! We enjoyed all 28 hours we had with you! This post is brought to you from Florence, as we arrived this evening around 7:30. Now, we look forward to a good night’s sleep and the beauty of Tuscany when the sun comes up!


Field Trips!

Quite the day in Pompeii!

The day had finally come… Ciao, Roma! Thanks for the thousands of steps, the countless bites of pizza, and the abundance of memories. How crazy to think that we will be heading back home the next time we are in Rome!

This morning we hopped on our first train as a whole class for a short ride to Naples! You could say it was a little hectic maneuvering thirty-one people each with at least two pieces of luggage through the cobblestone streets of Rome and Termini station. The guys quickly learned that the loading and unloading of luggage is much more efficient in an assembly-line fashion.

Along with most of the other girls, I received plenty of jabs about the contents of my bag.

“Jordan, did you pack the colosseum in here?”

“Did you pack all of Rome to take home with you?”

We have some true comedians on this trip, let me tell you.

Once we arrived in Naples we grabbed a quick lunch and met our new tour guide, Michaela, who would be leading us throughout Pompeii for the afternoon.

Pompeii. Where do I even begin? Most of us have been hearing stories about Pompeii since we were in elementary school. It has always fascinated me ever since I was little so you can only imaging how giddy I was as our bus started it’s journey towards Mount Vesuvius.

On our way to Pompeii, Michaela shared with us that we were in for a treat. Apparently, snow rarely covers the peak of Mount Vesuvius. Look at us Minnesotans bringing snow everywhere we go! She continued on to give us a little bit of background information about this ancient city.

It was 79 BCE when Mount Vesuvius erupted, freezing and preserving an ancient culture in a moment in time. The people of Pompeii did not realize Mount Vesuvius was a volcano leaving them completely blindsided when this “mountain” began spewing smoke and ash. Contrary to some literature, the majority of the people were suffocated by ash-filled air and volcanic gases rather than coming in contact with lava.

Once we stepped foot in the historical sites of Pompeii, the exploration began! From perfectly preserved clay pottery to bath houses, we spent the afternoon searching the abandoned streets.   The engineering that already existed during this time continues to impress me. There were raised sidewalks on either side of the street paired with a drainage system very similar to ones we see in neighborhoods back home. One of the most innovative aspects was the usage of small fragments of travertine scattered within the cobblestone roads. Travertine is a rock material with reflective qualities allowing it to help show the way when people were using torches and traveling in the dark. There were even raised crossroads to allow pedestrians to cross the street while allowing for animals and carriage wheels to fit in the spaces between stepping stones.

Michaela spent a bit of time explaining the processes of body preservation as we looked at shelves of pottery and two separate glass cases containing the figures of a struggling dog and a small toddler. While archaeologists were excavating they found that the bones remained, but the rest of the body would decay into the ground over the 1700+ years. Due to this, they would pour plaster into the empty spaces where bodies used to lay. These teams of archaeologists were then able to create full skeletons of the bodies. They can even still extract DNA from the bones that they found from so many years ago.

We were able to look around an extremely well-preserved bath house. Like other ones we have seen it had separate rooms for a frigidarium, a tepedarium, and a caladarium, but we were actually able to see some of the traditional decor. As we continued to journey throughout the city, we came across old heating systems and an oven built into the bricks. Please enjoy Chloe’s excitement below:

Just before leaving Pompeii we were able to check out an ancient theater. We found out first hand that the acoustics were incredible. By that I mean that our own Jim Hangge, sang us a bit of Taylor Swift’s You Belong With Me from center stage. It truly was impressive how much sound carried in such a large open space. We must have been at least 22 steep rows up from the stage and could hear surprisingly well! Click here to view it for yourself!

Once our time in Pompeii came to an end we drove to the hotel to settle in. We then took a little trip out into the city of Naples to explore and shop around. We passed many street vendors with fun little trinkets and many restaurants with very alluring dishes. Instead of stopping for dinner during our little adventure, we drove to Toffini Academy and had the opportunity to take cooking lessons as a class. It was such a blast! In groups of two or three, we engineers decked out in aprons whipped up a delicious meal of basil-ricotta filled cannelloni and handmade meatballs baked in a decadent ragu sauce. What a treat! It was so fun to see everybody sharing meal that we all had a part in creating!

Field Trips!

Quakes, Quintili, and (A)Queducts

Buon Giorno!

First of all, I want to start out by letting everyone at home know that while there were a few earthquakes today, we are all fine! In fact, we didn’t know it happened until about 6 hours after! The epicenter of the three 5.7 magnitude quakes is nearly 62 miles northeast of Rome. However, the metro(subway), schools and other institutions were evacuated here in Rome just to be safe. If you read some of the news articles, you’ll find that this particular area has been hit more than a few times in the last year alone. Definitely not something we’re used to back in Minnesota!


That being said, we had a fantastic day! First, we set off via coach to Villa Quintili. A giant estate, once belonging to two affluent brothers, is now a skeleton of what used to be. The villa contains pretty much everything you’d imagine two young and wealthy senators would want: large baths, private and public residence, water storage, maritime theater, and a gorgeous view of Rome, the mountains and even a volcano. Of course, there was plenty of engineering present- we looked at the massive arcades that were still standing around some of the baths and the residence halls, and heating in the bricks that made up the walls and floors. The remnants of the marble floors and walls, as well as the mosaics were nothing shy of beautiful.

Part of the residence hall.

After a little lunch break at Eataly, we got to play in the park! You’re probably wondering why a bunch of engineering students would go abroad to just play in a park… but trust me, there was plenty of learning to be had! We arrived at the Aqueduct park, where two (of the once 11) visible aqueducts rolled through green fields. We got to see Aqua Claudia and Aqua Marcia; Aqua Marcia, which supplies water to capitol hill, is one of the two that is still in use today (along with aqua Virgo-which supplies the Trevi fountain). The aqueducts often took water from rivers or springs in the mountains nearby and carry the water toward the city over various terrains. This is where the engineering really comes in! They used bridge arcades to cross-valleys, and would bury the channels underground when the terrain was raised. It’s all about flow! As long as the aqueducts are slightly downhill, gravity will do all the work, and carry water to fountains, baths, irrigation systems, and even private villas and palaces. We found another use for these miraculous pipes though, as we found ourselves climbing in and around them.

Aqueduct Claudia, built in 52 AD, runs 43 miles long, but is no longer in use.

Some of us on top of Aqueduct Marcia.

And that wraps up our time here in Rome! Tomorrow we take a high speed train to Naples, and soon after that we’ll be in Florence! Ciao!

Field Trips!

The Vatican Museum + Michelangelo’s Masterpiece

It is Day 16 and we are reaching the end of our time in Rome! Many of us have been scrambling to cross off the last few items on our lists of things to do. A couple of those things involving exactly what was on the itinerary today: The Vatican Museum and The Sistine Chapel! We were reunited with Gino, our beloved tour guide, for the day.


One of the most beautiful mosaics that we saw today!

To be completely honest, every aspect of the Vatican Museum was breath-taking (and I’m not just talking about the many flights of stairs that were climbed in the process). The experience as a whole left me speechless. You won’t see a single ugly thing inside. Well, except for the painting that depicted “a gentleman with big ears like a stupid donkey” according to Gino.

We walked through rooms and hallways and staircases filled with sculptures, decorated with frescoes, and accented with gold. Every step we took was upon vibrant marble slabs or intricate mosaic tiles. Although many of today’s experiences seemed to focus more on the artistic elements rather than engineering elements, our scientific brains continued to spin in their normal fashion.


Beautiful white and gold geometric coffers!


Again, left speechless by this amount of intricate detail on this vault ceiling.


If you look closely, some of these coffers are decorated with flowers and others with faces.

The Vatican Museum contained more coffers in one place than I have ever seen. There were coffers in domes, vaults, arches, and essentially any where else you could fit them. There were coffers with flowers, with faces, and with simple geometric shapes. In addition to the coffers, we walked through a hallway with massive hanging tapestries. Gino was particularly interested in one where the eyes of Jesus seem to follow you as you walk down the hall. He explained the unique use of perspective along with the large looms required to create such a magnificent tapestry. One last highlight from the Vatican Museum was seeing some of Raphael’s famous pieces in the apartments of Pope Julius II. Again, the detail and beauty continues to amaze me.


One of Rafael’s magnificent pieces in the apartments of Pope Julius II.

The Sistine Chapel, again magnificent simply in its artistic value, but also in its use of engineering. Michelangelo needed to design a way to hoist himself 60+ feet in the air in order to create such a magnificent ceiling. He developed a platform that positioned him within arm’s length of the curved ceiling. In addition, it needed to hold the weight of multiple grown men and large quantities of lime sand and water. Michelangelo built a bridge structure that utilized horizontal posts and followed the slope of the ceiling. Unfortunately, I cannot grace your screens with these beautiful frescoes since we were consistently reminded that “no fotos” were allowed.

That is all for today! Ciao!


Field Trips!

Back in the Classroom!

Welcome back! As some of you might already know, we had a free weekend! Here is how some of us spent our days off:

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Taking a Gondola ride in Venice

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Enjoying the view in Orvieta

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Skiing in Ovindoli

…And then it was Monday!

Since we usually learn our course content while out and about the city, today was a refreshing change-up to our routine, as we found ourselves back in the classroom! We were lucky enough to join professors and faculty at La Sapienza University in Rome. We were treated to lectures from a multitude of engineering topics from a variety of professors. Below is a brief list and notes about the topics we covered today:

  • Introduction to Roman Engineering with Alessandro Ranzo
  • Roman Roads with Paola Di Mascio
    • We learned about the different layering techniques and methods used to construct ancient roman roads.
      • How Romans would construct raised parts of the road to allow for pedestrians to cross, but allow carriages and carts to pass through.
      • Romans would use wood to make a sturdier foundation in cases of soft terrain.
  • Roman Bridges with Mario Paolo Petrangeli
    • Introduction to all the different types of arches found in ancient roman architecture
    • How they used machinery to construct the bridges.
  • Roman Hydraulics with Roberto Magini
    • Aqueducts and their use throughout the city.
    • Drainage systems (they would join rain water with waste water to dilute what was drained into the river)
    • Installation of aqueducts- use of gravity to create water pressure and flow.
  • Vulnerability of historical buildings with Fabrizio Vestroni
    • Introduction to seismic activity
    • How different types of buildings and structures are more or less vulnerable than others in the case of an earthquake.
      • Seismic activity and reaction are series of oscillations!
  • Logistics with Guiseppe Loprencipe
  • United States highways with (our very own) John Walker

My civil-engineer brain was running fast today! A very special thanks to Antoni D’Andrea, the Dean of the School of Engineering at La Sapienza, for welcoming us with open arms and allowing us to take what we know and apply it to Roman ideas and concepts!

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A Tommie Tradition! Since this course began in 2003, groups have been visiting La Sapienza and taking a photo in front of this well in the courtyard. Now it’s our turn!

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And of course we also had to get a group picture with the wonderful professors at La Sapienza! Thanks again!


Field Trips!

A Rainy Day in Roma

Hello everybody! Sorry to take a day off from blogging. We had a free day yesterday and spent most of the day exploring the city and catching up on sleep. Today, on the other hand, was back to our typical adventures with the addition of some Roman rain. In order to stay out of the rain we switch today’s schedule with a day that was originally meant for next week. I think we were all grateful to spend this hazy, rainy day inside museums rather than climbing the terrain at the aqueduct park.


We started off the day touring Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri (The Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs). Just like every church we have visited, it was breathtaking. You’d think that touring churches could get old, but it definitely hasn’t. Each one is unique in decor, style, and layout leaving us in amazement after every visit. A couple of aspects that caught my eye today were the meridian line, the painted coffers, and the Christmas Crib.


The meridian line was a diagram etched into the stunning marble floors and used to determine the location of the sun by the location of sunlight on the floor. This tool was most important for determining which day Easter should land on each year as well as for measuring a whole year more accurately.

The painted coffers were a small engineering aspect that I noticed. In many of the dome structures that we have visited, the dome required coffers to reduce the weight and overall force acting on the base of the dome. In the basilica we visited today, there were coffers, except they were not actual indentations. Instead, they were painted in a manner to resemble the true coffers that we have seen in St. Peter’s Basilica and the like.


We also saw an elaborate Christmas crib, which could also be known as a nativity scene. Gino explained that our Christmas traditions are more similar to those of northern Italy, like the Christmas tree for example. In southern Italy, Christmas cribs or nativity scenes are far more common than decorated trees. The amount of artistic detail was mind-boggling. I’ll let the beauty speak for itself above.


We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering through the ancient Diocletian baths, weaving between exquisite statues, and staring at intricate mosaics. The Diocletian baths being so prominent in ancient Roman culture proved to be just as magnificent as you would imagine. The incredible usage of arches, brick, and marble created very luxurious pools for wealthy families.


One of the favorite sculptures from today was easily The Boxer. We learned all about the construction of the sculpture from the holes in the eyes and back of the head that allowed the entire head to be hollow. Gino explained the difference between using marble versus bronze when sculpting such large pieces. It was so interesting to see the development of detail, expression, and movement in art over the centuries. The first few sculptures we saw seemed to be in very forced, stiff positions. As we continued on to slightly more recent pieces, fluidity and movement became much more prominent.

Also, today just happened to be Dr. Besser’s birthday! What a way to spend such a special day. Tonight, we will have the chance to celebrate with a birthday dinner here at our hotel.

That’s all for today! We have this entire weekend free, so keep an eye out for our next post summarizing everybody’s individual adventures.