ETH Week 2019: Rethinking Mobility

  • 10/16/19 3:10 PM
  • Kirsten Oswald

Getting involved in new ways of thinking

At ETH Week 2019, 200 students embarked on a challenging and exciting journey. Under the motto of “Rethinking Mobility”, they developed new solution pathways in interdisciplinary teams on the topic of mobility during the six-day course.

ETH Week took place for the fifth time this year and continues with unyielding popularity. For the first time almost 200 bachelor's, master's and exchange students registered to participate in this interdisciplinary course during the last week of summer break. Several students even joined the week again or participated as tutors, because they are so enthusiastic about the event.

As in previous years, a topic relevant for society was the focus of ETH Week 2019. Divided into 21 small working groups, students developed new solutions for the mobility sector under the motto of “Rethinking Mobility” from September 8-13, 2019. Matching the theme of the week, the “ETH Week Hall”, the central venue for lectures, workshops and teamwork, took place outside of the ETH for the first time on the grounds of the SBB Werkstadt-Areal in Altstetten. Along with SCCER Mobility, SBB was a partner of this year’s ETH Week and contributed to the content and expert inputs.

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Opening speech by Joël Mesot, President ETH Zurich, in the ETH Week Hall at SBB in Altstetten (Photograph: ETH Week 2019 / Alessandro Della Bella)

Developing a topic intensively

“I want to learn more about how to come up with ideas and lead a team”, says Kaushik Ravi at the beginning of ETH Week. He is a master’s student in the area of Integrated Building Systems and came to ETH Zurich a year ago after finishing his engineering studies in India. He hopes to obtain competencies that will help him found a start-up. On the other hand, Anna Michel joined because she was interested in exchanging with experts and other students. She is a Swiss bachelor student in agricultural sciences and says, “I would like to challenge myself and learn new things”. To deal with a topic intensively during an entire week without having the pressure of grades is what Carissa Reid hopes for. The master’s student from Jamaica studies mathematics and looks forward to getting familiar with new perspectives. Sebastián Guerrero Soriano, a master’s student in physics from Mexico, and Ludwig Lutz, a bachelor's student in mechanical engineering from Lichtenstein, already know exactly what awaits them. Both participated last year and were thrilled. “ETH Week forces you to leave your comfort zone and engage in new approaches”, is how Guerrero Soriano tries to put his enthusiasm into words.

Supervision through tutors

Twenty-five tutors support the participants. To accompany the teams competently, motivate them and solve conflicts if need be, tutors take part in a three-day training designed especially for ETH Week. At least one tutor supervises a team. Lino Cereghetti, master’s student in agricultural sciences, is one of them. He is the tutor of the team to which Anne Michel, Carissa Reid and Sebastián Guerrero Soriano belong. It is the second ETH Week for Cereghetti. In 2018, he was a student participant. He likes the course especially because it is a unique opportunity to obtain insights into the professional world, or as he puts it “the real world”, during university studies. “Later you almost always have to work in interdisciplinary teams, sometimes also with people from other cultures”.

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Teamwork (Photograph: ETH Week 2019 / Alessandro Della Bella)

Expert knowledge as a foundation

The six-day program of ETH Week is demanding. After getting to know each other and team building on day one, in the following two days students had to learn as much as possible about mobility. Therefore, the program entailed 14 different excursions to companies and organizations in the mobility sector. One of them was to the Gotthard Tunnel, another one to the Rhine Port in Basel.

In numerous input talks, scientists gave insights into their research relating to the topics of decarbonization and digitalization, including Christopher Onder, Professor for Dynamic Systems and Control, Margarita Chli, Professor for Computer Vision and Robotics and Emilio Frazzoli, Professor for Dynamic Systems and Control. To kick off the week, Konstantinos Boulouchos, Professor at the Institute of Energy Technology and Head of SCCER Mobility, gave an overview talk about the opportunities and challenges in the area of mobility.

The “Knowledge Fair” completed the expert input on Tuesday afternoon. More than 30 experts and specialist from the private sector, academia, NGOs and public offices exchanged with students.

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Excursion Gotthard Tunnel (Photograph: ETH Week 2019 / Alessandro Della Bella)

Developing creative solution approaches

On day four and five, student teams applied what they had learned and developed solutions independently. To support the creative process, Stefano Brusoni, Professor for Innovation Management, and members of his SparkLabs team introduced participants to “Design Thinking”. This innovation method aims at user-oriented solutions; their benefits are visualized with concrete models.

On the sixth and last day and under time pressure, the 21 teams added the finishing touches to their prototypes and presentations. In the afternoon, all teams went on stage and presented their ideas to an expert jury – as convincing and creative as possible and without the usual PowerPoint slides. Even if only three prizes were awarded, all groups received many cheers and applause.

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Prototyping (Photograph: ETH Week 2019 / Alessandro Della Bella)

Fruitful learning experience

The most important outcome for the participants was not the result, but the experience and insights from the past six days. As Rector Sarah M. Springman said in her opening speech on Sunday: “ETH Week is an unbelievable learning experience”. “It was a great atmosphere”, Sebastián Guerrero Soriano confirms at the end of the week. “The team worked together even better than last year with a lot of respect and appreciation for each other”. “I learned a lot about team guidance and we learned about methods to find new approaches when coming to a dead end”, said Kaushik Ravi. “Super great, exhausting and fun”, is how Anne Michel summarized her experience.

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Winners of the Peer to Peer Award: Team CO2operation for their project Ride`n`drop, a distribution scheme where users of shared bikes receive a price reduction if they deliver parcels at their destination (Photograph: ETH Week 2019 / Alessandro Della Bella)


Text: Inken De Wit, ETH Zurich (translated from German, original text)

Title photograph: ETH Week 2019 / Alessandro Della Bella

Read more in the ETH Week 2019 – The Diary

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