J-term Abroad: Roman Structures, Engineering & Society - Just another University of St. Thomas Blogs site
Field Trips!

Ciao Italia

Hi! My name is Megan Ray. I am a Junior Mechanical Engineering major, and I am doing today’s blog!

After 21 days, 11 cities, and 320,000 steps, we are on our way home. We are sitting in the Amsterdam Airport, waiting for our long trip back to the United States. The flight is delayed, so we have some time before the trip. Today isn’t super eventful, so this blog is going to be a bit of a recap from the past 21 days.

This course is Roman Structures and Engineering, so obviously, we saw and learned all about the engineering in Rome. We started with a bang by heading to the Colosseum our first day there. That was followed with exploring the whole city by visiting the Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, St. Peter’s Basilica, Trajan’s Column, Aqueducts, and so many other places. We visited museums and learned about the history behind these places too. This showed us how advanced the Romans really were with their Engineering. We can learn a lot from them about their way of life, including hard work and not giving up on their projects.

After Rome, it was a bit of a whirlwind going from city to city. Pompeii, Naples, Florence, Pisa, Sienna, San Gimignano, Modena, and Milan. All of these places had engineering features that we could learn from. We climbed Brunelleschi’s Dome and were able to see the double shelled dome. We learned about the Tower of Pisa and talked to the expert for the project. He taught us how sometimes the best solution is the simplest solution. We also saw some modern engineering at the Ducati Factory. Someday, some of us may be working on projects like that, so it was cool to see it actually happening.

In addition to the engineering we encountered, we were all lucky enough to learn more about intercultural living and learning. By being in a foreign country for 3 weeks, we were able to live in the culture, learn more about it, and ask questions about things that were unfamiliar to us. With all of our amazing guides, hosts, and new friends, we learned to be more understanding and accepting of things that are new to us. Instead of immediately judging something that is different, we are able to look at it, learn about the new culture, and understand why other people do what they do. We will be able to use these skills for the rest of our lives in our jobs, traveling, and everyday lives.

To finish off this blog, some of us (shout out to Grace for the awesome idea) thought it would be fun to put together a list of advice, quotes, and memories for any future travelers out there. We hope you enjoy it!

1. This is a ONCE in a Lifetime Experience.

2. If you see a bathroom (especially a free bathroom!!), you better use it.

3. Check the Weather! You never know if you will need your rain jacket, sunglasses, or hand warmers.

4. Rice Balls are GOOD!

5. Be careful when you fall asleep on the bus/train/plane… you never know who might be taking a picture.

6. Hydrate or Die-drate!

7. ALWAYS look for the Free Wi-Fi.

8. Art is cool, but sometimes it would be cooler if it was made out of butter.

9. Carrara Marble rules the world.

10. Fanny Pack Squad rocks.

11. Rick Steves is life (Shout out to Grant for being an awesome stand in).

12. Find the nearest Irish Pub.

13. When in Rome, try Greek Food.

14. Download the city map… or get an awesome navigator (Thanks Charles and Kristen).

15. There is NO such thing as too much gelato… or pizza… or croissants… or cappuccinos

16. Walking shoes are a necessity! Don’t be surprised when you hit a 10-mile day.

17. Arches and Arcades are everywhere!! Engineering is awesome.

18. See the Churches! There are so many of them!

19. Learn how to say ‘Can I pet your dog’ in Italian. This will be the most important phrase.

a. Side note: Sienna has the best dogs.

20. Sometimes seagulls make a picture 10x better.

21. Tuscany is a must see. It might even be worth a homemade song.

22. Everyone needs a Claudio for their guide. He made this trip the best trip we could have asked for!

23. Domes and towers may be scary, but climb to the top! The view is worth it!

24. Before you leave, find an amazing group of people to be with (preferably engineers). They make the trip the best it can be, and become awesome friends.

Italy, you stole a PIZZA my heart. Thanks for all the memories!

Field Trips!

We are officially Italian students

Hello Everyone! My name is Jillian and I am a junior mechanical engineering major. I will be doing the blog today – our last full day before we leave tomorrow!

              Just a quick reflection before I go into what we did today, which hold onto your socks folks cause it is pretty fantastic. I just wanted to extend a thank you to everyone who has helped made this trip possible. I could not have asked for a better group to be with this past month. Also shout out to Claudio for everything he has done for us as well during this trip! Now onto what we did today! We first went to the School of Design of the Politecnico University.

Here we were able to tour different labs focused on certain subjects such as photography, fashion, and product design. In each lab we toured, we saw students at work and learned a little bit about what they were working on. For the students it is currently finals week, so that meant crunch time. In the first lab we saw, the photography lab, there was a tutor there to help students get the best lightening and angle for their shot. Tutors were in every lab to help the students. The second lab, fashion lab, we heard a little bit about sometimes companies will come to these students with new fabric and task them to see what this new fabric or thread could be used for. For the third lab, product design, we saw how they make prototypes and different machines used to create their products such as 3D printers and a CNC machine.

              Once we completed the tour, we were able to hear about the creation and the reuse strategy for the EXPO that was hosted in Italy in 2015. For the creation of the EXPO, it took a lot of time, research, communication, and creative thinking to involve all cultures of all the countries that attended (54). For example, the EXPO team created a ‘dust storm’ and ‘rock’ pavilions. For the dust storm, they took different length cylinders and placed them all over the ceiling. For the rock shaped pavilions, they designed each pavilion to have different angles that gave it the appearance of rocks. The same kind of communication and research was needed for the apartments that would house all the crew for the next few months. Interesting note, everything that was created for EXPO – besides one building – was made with the idea that it would be taken down and reused. Once the EXPO was over, it was now time to think of what to do with this space. One of the main goals now is that the wanted to create a sustainable area that would last for a long time. We heard about the details of the new school that will be built there. The research they did for the school such having the students write in diaries of what they would want in the new school, the teachers attending workshops, or giving faculty cards with all the departments on them and using those cards to create an outline of where everything should go, was extensive but worth it. Seeing how engineering and design work together to create such a great place was mind blowing!

              Next, we were able to take a quick break before our next school to explore the city. A few of us went shopping – because in Milan you just must – and did a quick photo shoot – again you just got to do it. 😊

              The last stop of the day was the tour of IED, the European School of Design. We were able to see their labs such as photography, sound booth, and design (which had 3D printing as well). We also went into a classroom where the students were working on a one-day project of creating a few designs to make millennials more interactive. It was interesting to compare this school from the one we saw earlier. Both schools were amazing, and it was a great way to end the trip!


Field Trips!

Howdy folks. It’s your community Kansan, and another member of the mechanical contingent here on the trip. As one of the three blog masters of the trip, I am happy to finally, and truly, contribute to this final product.

Today was somewhat slower but absolutely as interesting. We had the privilege of attending a lecture and some tours at Politecnico di Milano, the largest technical institution in Italy, (42,000 students, a mix of Bachelors, Masters, and PhD students) and one of the top universities in the world. Our first presentation was in a beautiful ornate conference room, concerning some basic background information about the university, from a delightful presenter.

From there, we were led on a tour into the I3N laboratories for some information presented Professor Sampietro. Once in the labs, we were met with some faces that were more similar to ours than was anticipated. Some Masters and PhD students were in there, and they were kind enough to sacrifice some of their time to present to us a couple of their research projects. It was super interesting and after their short presentations of some high-level information pertaining to their projects, it devolved into a super informal Q&A where a couple of us American students were able to learn a lot more about the Italian education structure, among other interesting topics (namely the nightlife). Turns out that internships in Italy are largely nonexistent, and when they graduate, they are just kinda thrust into the working world without the experience that American students are able to garner.

From there, Grant, Nate, and I (the Blog Boiz), snuck away from the larger group to grub out on some delicious pizza from a stone pizza oven in a box truck. Sounds confusing but see below photo for an idea. It competes for my favorite food on the trip so far.

After lunch we meandered over to another lab where the robotics department provided a short presentation on their work. Their work was mostly focused on collaborative robotics, basically tasks that require both human and robotic activity. It was a shorter presentation, but super interesting as well.

Following the lab tour, we got on the bus and headed over to Arexpo, an extremely bold project that is taking place in the old location of the 2015 World Fair in Milan. It is a desire of a mostly publicly held company (Arexpo) to repurpose this location to create a space that is a hub for innovation in Milan. The goal is to open a university, hospital, and what is called a “human technopole”, or a point of research for the whole of this hub. The designs presented to our group were extremely forward-looking while being functional, sustainable, and aesthetically pleasing.

Since then, we took the short bus drive back and have been having a quiet night at the hotel. We’re pretty tired but we’re nearing the end and should be able to power through these last two days and reach the end. Looking forward to the last couple days but also our return stateside. Piacere Italy.

Peace out Italy, [Arnie voice] I’ll be back.

Field Trips!

To shop or not to shop, that is the question


What’s up people, this is Josh Panek. I’m currently a Junior at the University of St. Thomas, majoring in Mechanical Engineering. So I guess it’s my turn to take the blog for the day. If you take a look below this paragraph you’ll see a picture of me cheesin.

Cool so now that you got a visual of the guy writing this thing we can get to the meat of what we did today. We checked out Milan, the Fashion Capital of the World, also known as the Drinkable City (don’t quote me on that second nickname I found it on the internet). It was the last city on our long bucket list of Italian fun/learning and boy what a trip it has been to get here. Morale still seemed to be at a high, despite the fact some of my classmates had fallen a bit ill or have temporarily lost part of their hearing. We also still had our awesome Italian guide, Claudio even if it was only for one last day.

So Milan was super interesting in that it’s really the Italian city to blend a lot of modernism with the traditional aspects we had seen in previous cities. This was most visible within the architecture. At the beginning of our tour we saw a lot of modernly designed buildings in the Porta Garibaldi. The most daunting of them all was most definitely the UniCredit building.
The rest of the modern architecture proved to be just as impressive, and I often found myself to be a bit overwhelmed at not only the shear size of the buildings but their aesthetics as well. They were exotic, and a true testament to Italian engineering.
As we moved toward the city center however, I could could start to see that more traditional sense of Italian architecture return that I had grown accustomed to. Buildings once more grew closely compact and we began to see more and more plazas.

That doesn’t mean any of the traditional buildings we saw were in anyway dull or boring, because the Duomo di Milano and the Sforzesco Castle blew my mind. The Duomo di Milano in particular left me with my jaw dropping to the ground because it was truly unlike any cathedral we had seen thus far. The sheer scale of it rivaled the Florence cathedral and it owned a rich, gothic-like fashion that distinguished it from the majority. It was said to have 3,400 statues, 135 gargoyles, and 700 figures that decorated just the exterior. Both the sites were visually breathtaking and a pleasure to view.

So I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fashion that occurred within the city because there was plenty of it. Milan earned its nickname as the Fashion Capital. I saw more shops for clothing, make-up, and accessories than I did for food for crying out loud! It was insane and far from cheap. I stopped by a glasses store just to speculate if I even had a chance at buying anything. Nope. To make matters worse, there was this kind Italian lady, who clearly worked there, eying me down the entire time time expecting me to freakin buy something! Never bolted out of a store so fast.

Anyway, the amount of shopping one can do in Milan was quite impressive. The Quadrilateral della moda was the upscale shopping district within the center of the city. Along the main drag, Via Monte Napoleone, were multiple designer fashion boutiques, antiques, shops, and posh cafes in neoclassical mansions. In fact our entire class got the best damn cappuccinos we’ve had all trip intuit area, largely thanks to our man Claudio.

Finally, we got to check out the Last Supper painting by Leonardo Da Vinci. Overall, it got mixed reception from the class. I supposed we always pictured it as this larger-than-life thing, only to be a bit underwhelmed. The painting had definitely seen better days, but it was still visually immense. It covered a vast wall and was still surprisingly detailed, despite its age. I can say I did appreciate how Da Vinci was able to convey the story of the Last Supper within a single image. Opposite of the Last Supper was a depiction of the Crucifixion. It too spanned an entire wall, and told a single-framed story. Both were impressively done in my opinion.

Overall, Milan was an aesthetically pleasing city. It was a beautiful blend of modern and traditional, a picture of immense and outstanding structures, and a paradise for shopaholics.

Field Trips!

Holy Cow!


This is Grace Kubista the one and only civil engineering student on the trip. We have had a busy trip and today was no exception. We began the day by jumping on a train from Florence to Bologna. We then jumped on a bus and drove to Modena where we were greeted by some smiling faces at Hombre Farm.

Hombre Farm is an organic dairy farm which produces the Modena’s famous Parmigiano-Reggiano. We got to visit the cows, look at the milking facilities, and we got a tour of how the cheese is made. Then we went to the cheese vault. In this room, there were thousands of cheese wheels worth millions of dollars. The farm creates 14 wheels of cheese a day which actually classifies the company as a small production. After they are created, the wheels must age for a year before they are inspected. If a committee approves of the firmness of the cheese, then the wheels are aged for an additional 1-2 years. If and only if the cheese passes all these tests, then it is officially Parmigiano-Reggiano. While the tour and cows were great, we were all eager to get to the taste test portion of the day. We got to sample the famous cheese, and it did not disappoint. As a result, we bought a lot of cheese; let’s hope customs won’t confiscate it!


After the cheese portion of the day, we toured the tractor and car collection. The collection featured Maserati cars, Ferrari, old motorcycles, and a Lamborghini tractor. That’s right, Lamborghini initially made tractors!

Next, we went to Acetaia Malpighi to taste the famous Modena Balsamic Vinegar. We got to learn about the process of making the vinegar while tasting five different kinds. In order to create the amazing substances, they harvest the grapes in October then boil it for about three weeks. This allows the producers to get the mosto cotto or syrup like layer which will be aged in open barrels. These barrels are each made of a different wood which will alter the flavor of the vinegar. We also learned that the only way a balsamic vinegar can be labeled as traditional is if it is aged for a minimum of 12 years, and if you want a super old vinegar then you will have to wait 25 years for it to reach the appropriate acidity and taste. 30 families from around Modena produce traditional Balsamic Vinegar, and it is all done locally which means the grapes, the aging, and bottling all happens in Modena, Italy.

After refueling at the Roadhouse restaurant, we went to our final tour at the Ducati factory. We got to tour the production lines and see the assembly of the various engines and bikes. We were not allowed to take photos because they had a new bike being built and tested for the first time, and they really wanted to keep any racing and future bike plans under wraps. While they only have 1,200 employees currently, their busy season will start in the next week or so which means they will hire more workers to prepare bikes for the spring and summer. The process is mostly done by hand, and they test throughout assembly to ensure everything is done right. They have a human error rate of 0.6% which is very impressive. We also got to look at their museum which showcases over 90 years of bikes and Ducati history. An interesting fact is that the company started as a manufacturer of radio components. It wasn’t until they were bombed in World War II and forced to rebuild that they shifted to motorbikes.

Overall, today we got to explore the industrial belt of Italy. We saw three different manufacturing processes each was unique, but each ensured quality and authenticity. The cheese and vinegar both qualify as DOC or Designated Origin Control which ensures that all the ingredients and production steps are done in the region. It also means that the product follows the right steps to ensure that it is authentic. While Ducati is a faster and more automated production, they still put a lot of effort into making the handcrafted Italian bikes.


With the conclusion of our tours, we returned to the train station and got aboard the train to Milan. It was our last train ride, but our first time having an efficient and organized system for luggage.


Field Trips!

Carrara Marble: The Essence of Life

Hey all! My name is Paige Huschka and I am a junior at UST studying mechanical engineering. Today was Day 16 and I have the pleasure of covering what I deem the coolest day thus far: Carrara Marble quarries and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Me with Carrara Marble!

We first headed up to Carrara, a small town in Northern Italy in the mountains. This town is home to huge marble quarries that have been supplying marble for over 2000 years. What is interesting about Carrara is even though these marble quarries create a booming profit for the owners, the city itself is very poor. We had the privilege of being able to actually head directly into the quarries via Land Rovers, hundreds of feet up a mountain. If you haven’t ridden in a Land Rover, there are two rules: 1. It is NOT a Jeep so don’t call it one (offense will be taken) and 2. Hold onto your hats and prepare to get snuggly with your neighbor! It will bump you around more than a rollercoaster. Once up in the quarries, the view was absolutely breathtaking. The white marble was extremely bright with the reflecting sun and stood high above us. We learned that this marble is excavated basically the same way it was back in the Roman times: with a diamond encrusted steel cable that wraps around the marble in the mountains to cut it. They predict only 94% of the marble has been excavated so if you want to visit it too, it’s not going anywhere – just make sure to wear shoes you don’t care about, it gets a tad bit messy. Our amazing tour guide also bestowed us with the wonderous knowledge that Carrara Marble is in basically everything you could think of, whether it be building materials, facial cream, toothpaste, yogurt, CaCO3 chemical compounds, or anything you can find that contains calcium in it. On our way down from the mountains, our tour guide gave us the opportunity to try lard. If you don’t know what lard is, it is straight pig fat. Sounds yummy right? I was a bit wary about it, but after being prepared with spices and sitting for months, it actually tastes pretty good on toast.

Good view of the marble excavation.

After Carrara, we headed to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. From an engineering standpoint, it is quite more than a basic Instagram picture. The reason it leans is because of the soft soil it was built upon, resulting in too much compression in the foundation that made the tower lean. Originally, the first four levels were built first. Then, they finally realized that the tower was leaning, stopped construction, and came back to build the next levels at an angle to try to correct it. This did not work well and resulted in the tower’s banana shape. To correct the final building, engineers had to consider that they needed to protect the integrity of the tower first and foremost: meaning, they could not add gaudy mechanisms on the outside that would ruin the aesthetic and meaning of the building. Some solutions attempted did not work, and some even made the leaning worse. Finally, at the beginning of the 21st century, they came up with genius (yet surprisingly simple) solution: soil excavation. They removed soil from the North side of the tower (non-leaning side) to even out the foundation, and the tower has slowly but surely been leaning back to straight. Don’t worry, it will still be leaning for another 200-300 years, so you’re still able to take a basic insta pic. Speaking of, here are some of my favorite pictures from today:

He is beauty, he is grace.

Senior boys + Charles (Trying to reenact the raising of the flag of at Iwo Jima)

Joe doing… who knows what?

We climbed to the top of the tower and got some pictures of the spectacular view (even the people afraid of heights – so proud!)

After the Leaning Tower, we toured the Pisa Cathedral. Like all of the architecture we have toured, it was beautiful. What was interesting about this cathedral is the Spanish hints in its architecture – you can note the stripes throughout the church on the walls and arches that is associated with Spanish architecture.

Touring the Campo Santo, an ancient cemetery, was next on the agenda. This actually was the main attraction of Pisa in the 18th and 19th century, rather than the Leaning Tower, due to the immaculate frescoes on the wall. One that particularly struck me was a depiction of Hell, with Lucifer and his demons in the middle, showing what could happen to someone if they did not live morally and faithfully to God. If that fresco wouldn’t want to make you be a better person, I don’t know what would. I mean, I personally wouldn’t want a demon tearing apart my limbs for breakfast (but that might be just me).

Finally, our last stop was the baptistery. The acoustics in this place were AMAZING. Maybe my acapella group Cadenza can hit up this place for our next concert venue? The one thing that stood out to me was the dome in the baptistery was the only unpainted dome I’ve seen on this trip.

After getting through the main attractions in Pisa, we ended the trip with a bus ride, always in fear of sleep, for Grant has made it his mission to take pictures with everyone’s conked out face. Moral of the story? Always be ready for the unknown… aka  Grant’s face uncomfortably close to yours on a bus.

Field Trips!

Welcome to San Gimihnnkoj…Tuscany

Buongiorno! It’s your girl, Ashley Haus, yet another mechanical engineer present on the adventure.
Day 15 began with a bus ride to the city of Siena, which is way easier to say than San Ginigm…. [editor’s note: San Gimignano (I had to google it to spell it correctly) – LR] that other place we went to later. Our tour guide brought us first through the Basilica of San Domenico where the skull of Saint Catherine can be found. The part that I found to be the coolest were the Cantrada emblems that spread across the walls. They represented the code of arms for each Cantrada the neighborhoods that the city is split into.
There are a total of seventeen Cantradas, but only ten of them participate in the Paleo the big horse races. These races are a huge event that happens in the square and winning brings a lot of pride. The goose has won the last couple races and now I know we have bandwagoners present since that flag was purchased by some people.
The best part about the races, in my opinion, is that horses can win and one actually did during the last race. The jockeys fell off and the horse still crossed the finish line first for the win.
We ventured into the cathedral next and it was surprisingly enormous. We later learned that it was a competition to build a bigger cathedral than the one already located in Florence. The most interesting thing that I found about the structure was that some of the columns on the outside are actually bent since the cathedral was built on a hill. One short roll down the hill one can find the city council building built in 1219. The Torre del Mangia or bell tower that is connected is nicknamed after the man that rang the bell. It is called the “Mangiaguadagni” which translates to eat-the-earnings because the bell ringer was a man-eater. After leaving Sienna, San Gimignano was next on the agenda. They have a plethora of defense towers scattered throughout the city. Individual families usually built them for themselves and they also had the purposes of being a display of power and wealth. We actually got to climb the Civic tower which has to be the tallest tower in the city obviously. I could hardly climb that many stairs again after the million and a half steps we did the previous day in Florence, but the view from the top was worth the climb.
[editor’s note: if you look closely, you can see the parallel** bars. My spesiallity ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CzycofSj7EM ) – LR]
The rolling countryside and the city below were absolutely breathtaking. It was a good change from the primarily city views that we have enjoyed previously on the trip. The gelato that we enjoyed at the bottom was also good. Another great day in the books and I cannot wait for more to come! Ciao.
[editor’s note: this was my second favorite day so far. Not an important fact overall but just saying – LR]
Field Trips!

Daaaa Dome

Hey everyone, Nate Hahn here! Looks like it’s my turn to write the blog. We have found ourselves on day 14 of our trip. Two weeks have never gone by so fast! We started our day today with some quick class presentations and then meandered our way out to the beautiful courtyard of our hotel, Palazzo Ricasoli, to meet up with our tour guide Mimi. Let me tell ya, this lady is a pro. Not only did Mimi completely rattle our minds all day with some outstanding historical facts, but she even came prepared with headsets for each of us. To put this in perspective for you, I think it may have been the longest time that someone has managed to keep the entire class awake, quiet, and attentive this entire trip (outside of class that is of course). Mimi started our adventures off by leading us to the Academia. The Academia is an art museum attached to an art school in Florence. It is also the home of the ever-famous Michelangelo’s David. You can see Grant doing his best impression of it in the pic below.


Mimi walked us through all of Michelangelo’s displayed works as well as some of the first pianos and some other beautiful string instruments that were owned by the Medici family a long time ago. She also told us about the origins of the piano and showed us some of the first designs. In the pic below you can see what they referred to as a “portable” piano at the time. Thankfully people have innovated smaller and easier ones… The next picture is of one of the violins found to be owned by the Medici family. If you can look closely, you are even able to see their family crest emblazoned on it.

After a very long, fun, and informative session at the Academia we found ourselves struggling a bit to keep going. Like I said before though, our girl Mimi was a pro and knew exactly where to point us to for some refreshing and life saving gelato. After refilling our tanks with some sweet savory greatness, she led us through the main plaza of the Florence Cathedral and into a church that not too many people get to see. Its origins were that of a grain factory but was later repurposed as a church during the Bubonic plague. This was due to the belief that one of the paintings was actually able to heal the suffering of some people. It was very easy to miss but contained an outstanding story of the life of previous generations. Below is a picture of Mimi telling us all about it while we sat and took a quick break in the pews inside before we made our ways back to the plaza and the Cathedral.

Sadly, it was time for us to say goodbye to our amazing tour guide. On the bright side though, our next stop was the Florence Cathedral! The real beauty for me was the dome of the old Italian architect and one of my favorite historical figures, my guy Filippo Brunelleschi. The dome was constructed as two separate shells, and because of this we were able to climb the stairs between them and get a majestic view of Florence from the top. Half way up the stairs we were also able to see the beautiful paintings inside the dome as we walked around its base. Let me tell ya though, those stairs were not made for tall people with big feet… After our ascent to the top of the dome, we then separated into smaller groups. My group decided we wanted to tackle the bell tower next to the Cathedral. There’s nothing like hundreds of stairs to get a healthy appetite worked up though. So before we made our way up the tower, we found ourselves in the warm embrace of a kind old man who owned a panini shop known as “Panini Toscani”. I think he was really just an angel sent to save our souls, because not only did he let us sample everything before we made our own paninis, but he also walked us through where each cheese, meat, and topping came from and how he stored it in order to give us only the freshest of ingredients. I’m not sure if I can do these paninis justice, but if you find yourself in Florence, I cannot recommend this place highly enough. Just look at the bliss Luke’s face as he attempts to eat his.

After my group had been replenished and our energy restored it was time to take on the bell tower. We worked our way up another few hundred steps to find ourselves at the top for another majestic view of the city. Let me tell ya, that is one view that I don’t think will ever get old. Thankfully the steps were slightly bigger too, so we were actually able to fit in the stairwells. After all of those steps, my group decided to call it a day. In the end, it was a lot of walking, too many steps, a couple of unforgettable views, and some fantastic historical stories. It will definitely not be a day that any of us will be forgetting any time soon!

Thanks for coming and reading everyone.

Sincerely, Nate

Field Trips!

A Studious Day of Studies

Hello from the beautiful and sunny Florence Italy, this is one of your three seniors on the trip, Grant Gunderson. After spending so much time editing everyone’s writing, it’s finally my turn to paint you a picture with my own words.

I would love to be able to tell you that the temperatures are in the 80’s and 90’s and that we are all getting tan but, just like America its winter over here as well. After a hectic couple of days leaving Rome and heading off to tour Pompeii, we got a chance to visit one of Europe’s most impressive and well renowned facilities for structural engineering. The university sits just outside of the city of Naples and has multiple campuses. If you can believe it there is 84 thousand students that attend the university. The student’s study everything from surgery and medical careers all the way to structural and environment engineering. In total the school also has 5000 paid staff and was founded back in the year 1224 when it became one of the first universities in the country Italy and now to this day remains the largest university in the country.

Upon arrival to the campus we were greeted by staff and then sat down for our 2.5 hour long 3-part lecture with some of the professors who worked at the university. The first of the professors was named Dr. R. Landolfo. He presented to us on the background of the school itself as well as general thoughts and purposes of engineers who worked in Italy. He gave us great insight into a common idea that many Italian engineers share, to preserve the past and its beauty but work towards improving the future around it. Something interesting we learned is that the school does accept international students to attend but, that most of the students who come from countries outside of Italy are either Japanese, Chinese, Iranian, or residents of another middle eastern country such as Pakistan. If you would like to learn more about him feel free to check out the bottom of the post for a link where I will be posting bios for all the speakers we saw today. The second speaker was an 80-year-old man who was presenting to us on the magic behind the leaning tower of Pisa. He had worked since the 50’s on an engineer on Italy’s state projects to preserve the tourist attracting tower. From being an intern in his earlier days to heading a group of engineers, he told us stories of the many different tactics used to keep the tower vertical. We learned that the tower is always in constant motion falling towards the ground. The catch is that it moves at such a small rate that the human eye could not even notice. In all the tower weights right around 14,500 tons and stands at a total height of about 58 meters tall or 190 feet. We learned ways that Engineers have been able to combat the tilt of the tower by changing the soil around the base of the tower to altering the tower into a shape much like a banana to help balance out the loads created from gravity. It was amazing to get to hear the history of the tower directly from someone who had made the tower his life’s work. Our final presenter was Dr. Federico M. Mazzolani and he was presenting to us about his time as a structural engineer and his work to help maintain and restore different historical buildings around Europe and parts of Asia. Mainly, he and his colleagues would recreate smaller scale models of these ancient buildings and then test them against the damages of earthquakes using a machine called shaking tables. Using large amounts of power and force these tables help to replicate the forces experienced during earthquakes so engineers to can test their designs against the power of mother nature. Dr. M spoke of buildings he had worked at from France to Italy and even Iran and the middle east. To finish up our day at the university we received a tour of their laboratory and the many pieces of equipment they for testing different materials. We might have even lost a few people as the civil Engineer in them took over and they wandered off in awe of the monumental and powerful machines.

As of now everyone is starting to see the finish line in sight but, we are all happy healthy and enjoying every second of this trip. Thanks to everyone for following along and we will see you next in Florence! Ciao!


further Prof. info


Field Trips!

In the Shadow of a Sleeping Giant

Today was our first day spent outside of Rome in a group. We left our hotel that had been home for the past week and a half and moved on to Naples. We took the high-speed train from Rome to Naples and booked some extra seats in hopes of keeping our luggage together, all failed when the train company sent someone over to tell us that our suitcases could not sit on the chairs themselves. Below I have still included a photo of the luggage strategically placed together on the seats tetris-style as everyone put in their best engineering effort to fit the bags into those four chairs.

Once we arrived in Naples we took a coach bus to our destination of the day: Pompeii. In Pompeii we were guided through the main areas such as the forum, the bath house- “Le Terme Stabiane”, an example of a rich person’s home and lastly the Teatro Piccolo by our guide Michaela. She had great insight on the history of Pompeii. One of the first things she talked about was obviously Mount Vitruvius. The citizens had no idea that the huge mountain they saw everyday housed a rumbling volcano so when the time came, and the volcano erupted, no one was prepared to take precautions and leave the city before they were covered in ash and effected by the toxic gases. Instead, they were laid to rest where they stood because they did not take actions necessary, which in the end is what gives us their well-preserved ruins and bodies/food. Below in the photo of the forum, you can see Mount Vitruvius near the center in the background.

Our tour guide was able to show us some unique features of the city as well. On the pathways and streets there are smaller white rocks inlaid within the larger stable rocks, this acted as ancient “road paint” and would illuminate the pathways at night with the reflection of the moonlight. This was one of my favorite features as I had never noticed it before on any other roman streets and once it was pointed out to me, I noticed in everywhere within the Pompeii ruins.

Another one of the features pointed out to us were the Thermopoliums. These were cement and stone structures that were inlayed with clay and surrounded in marble. They were used to keep vases and various containers of food and liquids cold on warm days. On a day like today where it was sunny and 50 degrees, the thermopoliums were still cool to the touch. These served as bars and merchant tables for the citizens.

One of the last few things to mention would be the bath house, which was a large area with smaller and fewer openings in order to keep the hot air in in the hot bath room. In Pompeii’s bath house, there was separation by sex, there was a men’s waiting room, cool bath room, sauna, and hot bath room and a women’s’ version identical to it just through a separate hallway. Another area we viewed was an example of a richer person’s home. In this what stood out to me was the intricate flooring and the frescos that included red, as it was the most expensive color. Lastly, we viewed a small theater in the city, it was most likely used for comedy, tragedy and singing performances.

The trip to Pompeii was short and sweet, I’m sure we could have all spent hours wondering around within it’s walls but it was great to have a guide and be informed on important areas of life for the citizens before their untimely death.