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Exchange with University of Brescia: The handcart as an intercultural community project!

As part of a short exchange program funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Hof University of Applied Sciences has been developing joint courses and projects with six international partner universities since 2022 (“campuls-digital” reported). During an exchange event with the University of Brescia in Lombardy, a Franconian cultural asset has now been reinterpreted.

From the idea to the vehicle: the Bollerwägen were finally realized in the MakerSpace at Hof University of Applied Sciences; Image: Hof University of Applied Sciences;

The aim of the “Product Development” module as part of the I2P2project between the University of Brescia and Hof University of Applied Sciences was to use the design thinking method to develop a prototype for a product for the other group in just two project weeks.

This year, after an introduction to the methodology, we took the traditional Father’s Day hike on Ascension Day as a practical occasion and set ourselves the goal of designing a handcart suitable for the other group.”

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Anke Müller, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering

She continues: “Our Italian colleague Prof. Dr. Stefano Pandini and I came up with the idea during a walk through Theresienstein last year.”

Intercultural challenge

The task of the two groups was therefore to develop and equip a Father’s Day vehicle as a model and to pay particular attention to the needs of the other group. “This was particularly challenging, as the groups were very international. Although the participants had German and Italian passports, their cultural and religious backgrounds were very different,” says the project manager. In addition to the different priorities when dealing with drinks and food, there were also individual allergies that had to be taken into account: “Ultimately, a wonderful international understanding developed during the joint work in English, German, Italian and even Spanish. The students were able to overcome the challenges that arose.”

Team building and language crash course

During the first week in Brescia, the participants also enjoyed an attractive supporting program and plenty of team building in the best weather in April. After a language crash course – the first parts of which had already been completed online – there was a “speed dating” in the respective foreign language to get to know each other for the first time. Of course, the group visited the historic university building, the castle and the two cathedrals of the city of Brescia. An excursion to the popular Lake Garda and its “little brother”, Lake Iseo, rounded off the program.

In addition to the work, there was also plenty to see and enjoy – like here at dinner on Lake Garda;
Image: Hof University of Applied Sciences;

At a wine tasting in the Franciacorte region, the group was also able to see the quality of “Italian champagne” for themselves before finally visiting Roman excavations at the UNESCO World Heritage Site Museo di Santa Giulia.

Prototypes from the MakerSpace

The return visit to Hof finally took place in May – unfortunately almost completely rained out. The task of the groups was to transform their handcart models into real prototypes in the MakerSpace at Hof University of Applied Sciences, the workshop for inventors and developers. One team opted for a modular design, the handcart could be converted into small stools with a table. The other team opted for a more compact design with an integrated cool box and bottle holders.

The everyday test of the models finally took place during a test hike around the Fichtelsee lake. It turned out very well that not all ideas also work off-road. “But the handcarts spontaneously turned into musical instruments and, surprisingly, people sang and rapped,” says Prof. Anke Müller with a smile.

Endurance test for the handcarts at Fichtelsee; Image: Hof University of Applied Sciences;

As part of the supporting program, the guests from Italy were offered an introductory campus tour as well as excursions to Bayreuth, West Bohemia and Bamberg’s old town. A visit to the Entrepreneurs’ Exchange at Hof University of Applied Sciences and the mail-order wholesaler Amazon were also integrated into the second week. Getting to know regional specialties, a joint Weißwurst breakfast and other joint visits to Hof locations rounded off the exchange.

Background to the program for students:

The modules offered in the I²P² project are interdisciplinary and open to students from all disciplines and faculties. Coursework completed during the project can be credited to almost all Bachelor’s degree courses. The aim is to prepare students optimally for working in a multicultural and networked world through joint, intercultural and interdisciplinary learning in lectures and practical projects.

Rainer Krauß

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