In terms of learning, students get to better understand engineering processes, enrich their contemporary world culture and develop their reflective abilities. These latter are improved through problematization, critical reading, the investigatory process, exploitation of data, theorization, composition of articles, public restitution, and position-taking.
This year’s central theme bore on resource consumption, recycling and destruction of artefacts:
How do you foster progress while taking account of the physical limitations of resources available in nature?
Divided up into small groups, first-year engineering students have to write a multidisciplinary study of a new technology. Such work integrates the technology itself along with the many consequences (economic, political, ecological, social, etc.) of its democratization.
The example of the international ITER project, which aims to replicate the sun’s energy on earth:
Emile and his team chose to focus their study on ITER, the world’s largest fusion experiment.
The technical challenges are enormous! In order to create the world’s biggest fusion reaction, the engineers involved had to design and manufacture the world’s biggest superconducting coils.
The superconducting coils measure over 20 meters in diameter and weigh hundreds of tonnes. Some of them are currently under construction on the site itself. “We were lucky enough to visit this one-of-a-kind production chain, which implements made-to-measure tools”.
During the visit, we first of all attended a micro-lecture delivered by a safety and environment engineer. It provided us with more knowledge on the subject and an opportunity to ask questions. Then we visited the site, taking in the superconducting coil production chain, the assembly room and the particle accelerator room (the tokamak). The ITER project should be followed by the Demo project, which will be carrying out its first electricity production tests by 2050.