Peter Breuer – Campus Update

We interviewed Peter Breuer last year just before he was about to embark on his Mechanical Engineering Undergraduate Course at the ETH (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule) in Zürich. One year later, we’d like to know what he’s been up to and how his studies are going.

After two semesters at ETH I have now completed the rigorous first-year examinations and will likely proceed with the third semester of mechanical engineering after receiving my results in a week’s time. Highlights of the first year: I have gained first practical experience as part of a five-week (obligatory) internship at libs – Industrielle Berufslehren Schweiz, where apprentices are trained to work hands-on in the Swiss engineering industry. In this practical training course I got to know industrial production methods, including turning (lathe), drilling, CNC machining, welding, electric and more. Above all, a colleague and I were able to implement a personal project of our own; we chose to produce mountain biking pedals from start to finish, as this sport is a passion of mine

Furthermore, during the second semester groups of 4-6 first-year students were faced with the task of building a machine that would be able to fire different loads into targets placed in different locations. This project culminated in a timed race, where all teams’ (half-) autonomous systems would compete against each other. Even though my team did not rank highly, this eminently demanding project taught me a lot about team work, computer aided design, mechatronics as well as methods of additive production such as 3D printing.

Finally, the preparation for the first-year exams stretched over a period of over 2 months and thus required a whole new level of perseverance, discipline and learning strategies compared to anything one could face during their school time. Nevertheless, revising the broad IB curriculum content did contribute to mastering this challenging timespan. As a break from studying, I frequently embarked on trips to the Swiss Alps.

Down time from a strenuous academic programme at the ETH.

A glimpse of the possible future: In the third semester, a few lectures will be held in English for the first time. The courses are beginning to focus more on engineering in specific. Examples are Physics, “Control Systems” and Thermodynamics. What’s more is that I will attend courses which are part of ETH’s unique so-called “Science in Perspective” study programme. This allows students to develop new perspectives on their core subjects’ scientific and technological issues. Quoting from the ETH website: It opens up new perspectives on the natural and engineering sciences, while addressing topics that might have been missed, or that might not have been explored in the core subject’s lecture courses due to lack of time. Through seminars and lectures, the historical, moral, epistemological, legal, economic and political contexts, without which science and technology would not be possible, will be examined. Students learn to understand and critically question the correlations between scientific knowledge, technological innovations, cultural contexts, individuals and society. They thus enhance their reflective competencies, while being prepared for the social and global developments of the future. With the study programme Science in Perspective, D-GESS is making an important contribution towards ETH Zurich’s Critical Thinking Initiative.”

Lastly, I have received a job offer at ETH’s engineering design and computing laboratory. This means that I am likely to begin working a few hours a week as a teaching assistant for the first-semester “Computer Aided Design and Technical Drawing” course.

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