Meet the bloggers

Ana Ho Chen Sheyna Lotun
Chinese-Peruvian engineering apprentice living and working in La Rochelle, France. Graduate student in Mechatronics Engineering from Mauritius, the jewel of the Indian Ocean.

Last week at h_da

We’ve arrived to our fourth and final week in Darmstadt. We still had three days on campus, with academic and German courses. Even if we finished the modules of Energy Efficiency and Smart Infrastructures, we still had classes that were considered as a complement to our courses, such as Energy Economics and Light Architecture.


We started the day with a lecture on energy economics. We already had Professor Sebastian Herold on our Energy Distribution lecture earlier in the programme, but his real core study is Energy Economics. The purpose of this class was to make us aware of all the economics mechanics behind the Energiewende. Certainly, most of the challenges in the deployment of Energiewende are technical, but they also include economical and political ones.

After a short introduction on the power markets, which are mostly unknown to a large part of the public, we set off to understand the impact of renewable energies on the energy prices. The issue is that in order to develop renewable energies, governments have to subsidize them, and the funds come from taxes in our electricity and gas bills. At the same time, the production of electricity through renewable sources is not regular, which means that we need backup sources that can instantly satisfy the need of energy (such as fossil fuels). Surprise, the marginal cost of fossil fuels is very high compared to that of renewable energies! Therefore, governments have to invest more money than expected, which increases the taxes. And the loop is thus closed.

This was better explained with an exercise. Professor Herold handed in an article from The Economist, that detailed this “death spiral”. We analysed it in groups of four and then discussed the article all together following some guide questions. As a final conclusion of this lecture, we realised that in order to change things for the best, we have to suggest solutions not only from a technical point of view, but also from an economical point of view. And thus, collaboration between different background professionals is necessary in order to change things.

On a lighter note, in the evening, the ISU team had organised for us a German movie night, which was part of the German course, at the cinema of Luisenplatz. When we arrived there, we found out that Jessica had actually booked the entire cinema room for us, meaning that she bought 80 tickets so that we could have the room all to ourselves! We were also given pop corn and soda, all for free!

We watched Willkommen bei den Hartmann (Welcome to the Hartmann’s), a German comedy about a Nigerian refugee who is taken in by a German family and tries to adapt to a German lifestyle while waiting for the results of his political asylum petition.

We laughed a lot with some of the scenes from the film’s SPOILER ALERT like when Basti did his rap music clip with the help of Diallo, or after the huge party organised by the friend of Angelika. There were also heart-touching moments, such as the presentation that Basti did on Boko-Haram, the reason why Diallo fled to Germany, or when Sofie comes across his father at the club and leaves after realising that he has been cheating on her mother.

This film is definitely one of the ways to get to know a culture better. It shows also one of the ways to address societal issues, such as immigration. In Europe, this is one of the topics that divides the more our society and, through humour, this film tries to make people reflect on the question of “What is actually that makes us feel Germans?”.


In the morning, we met with Ahmad, who took us to the Landesmuseum for a presentation that we would have on Architecture. Our lecturer showed us some insights in light architecture. This concerns the use of light in order to create different spaces and atmospheres, without changing the infrastructure. Just with a different layout of light sources or different light colours, a space can appear bigger or smaller, and objects inside this space can convey different feelings.

We visited then some of the rooms of the Landesmuseum, where we could appreciate the different functions of lightning according to the topic of the room. The exhibition on zoology, for example, used light in a different way than the exhibition on renaissance paintings.

Finally, we ended our visit with a tour at the Rosetta exhibition. And, just in case you didn’t know, Darmstadt is where the European Space Agency and the European Space Operations Centre are! They directed and monitored the three phases of the mission: the launching of the Ariane 5 rocket, the trip of the Rosetta space craft through the space, and the landing of the Philae module on a comet. We saw a really innovative presentation that summarised this mission, we actually laid down the floor on bean bags and watched this presentation projected all over the ceiling above us. It was truly mind-blowing!


We actually spent all of our tuesday evening preparing our German presentation (don’t judge us, it’s the fault of procrastination…). The class of beginners in German had the choice between preparing a short presentation introducing themselves and their country of origin or doing a short conversation in pairs. The other four who had foundations in German, Alex, Sheyna, Rahman and Ana, had to prepare a presentation on our trip to Rüdesheim. The hotel café bar, again, became our head quarters for a night. Most of us couldn’t have made it if it wasn’t with the help of Frau Ahlheim (a.k.a. our dear Mona), who became our volunteer German teacher (at one point her class was made of 10 of us).

The next day was the big day! We did our presentations group by group, and some of the conversations were really funny (the guys were really creative). It was satisfying to see ourselves and realize that we arrived without knowing a word in German (except for Hallo and Danke) and now we were able to make basic sentences and count! We’ve come a long way indeed…


Aidan: “Super! Ich komme aus den USA auch!”

In the evening, we decided to organise a picnic to enjoy one of the last sunny days in Darmstadt before we left (the weather forecast announced rain for the next two days). We organised ourselves to buy Einweg grills, a sort of disposable barbecue grill for one person (thank you Germany!) and meat, and then set off to Grube Prinz von Hessen lake. It’s almost an hour bus ride, with a connection once in the outskirts of Darmstadt and a short 10-minute walk through the woods. But it’s totally worth it! Aidan, Gaetan and Rodeo used their cavemen skills to light up the bonfire and Sheyna, Roger and CH were handling the BBQ production chain, while the rest of us enjoyed swimming in the lake.


The Master of Fire

We had to be careful not to miss the last bus back to Darmstadt! Some of us got a little lost when we tried to join the others, who were already at the bus stop waiting for the bus, and we only had 10 minutes to reach them. So there we were, walking in the dark with all of our stuff and trying to find our way out (no, there is no service coverage in the woods so Google Maps wasn’t very useful) until we saw a bright light in front of us: it was Dev who was making signals with his phone! The rest of the group cheered us while we ran as fast as we could so that we wouldn’t miss the bus, and we made it safely back to the city. This was absolutely one of the most memorable Darmstadt adventures for us.


Our last educational outing was in Mühltal where we visited a smart house owned by Dr. Bernhard Hein, a very friendly person who welcomed us warmly. He actually retrofitted his own house (which was originally built in 1920) with solar panels and advanced technologies such as solar inverters and device controllers all wired to smart software like TA Designer and TAPPS2 which are used to program the heating system and switching modules in his house.

He started the guided tour of his house by showing us his garden (where he planted a variety of vegetables) and his solar panels which are strategically located on the roof of his house. We were then invited inside where he had already set up a presentation room with comfortable benches, chairs and small snacks which included hot tea (made of herbs from his garden) and coffee.

We were introduced, through a Powerpoint presentation, to the equipment installed, how to interprete the data collected, the controlled devices and the software he uses to efficiently monitor the heating system of his smart house even when he is abroad on holidays (ah, Internet is of great use in such technologies!). He has definitely proved to us that anyone can go for a smart home as the initial investment does lead to a significant saving later. He also showed us his basement where the solar inverter, the device controllers, the hot water (boiled by the solar heaters) as well as the gas heater and the paper/wood burner (used during winter when there is not enough sunshine for the solar panels to work properly) are installed. We are certainly thankful to Dr Hein who generously opened the doors of his unique house and kindly offered to help us in any future smart home project.


Wir machen Watt!

Weekend trip #4: Heidelberg, the romantic…

On Sunday, we woke up for a short trip to Heidelberg in the state of Baden-Wurtemberg. It was a sunny and warm day, so once we got off the bus and saw the landscape, with the river Neckar, the green forests, the blue sky and the castle on top of a hill, we were too thrilled! Ahmad, an ISU member who was accompanying us, had already lived for a while in Heidelberg, so he suggested us to go first to the Old Bridge and then to the Castle of Heidelberg.


The charm of the bridge are its red bricks, which are quite uncommon in other cities that we’ve visited in Germany. In fact, Heidelberg is one of the cities that was the least affected during the Second World War, which is why it managed to keep its beautiful architecture. We took a lot of pictures and enjoyed the sun for a moment, before heading to the cable car that would take us to the castle. Once at the top, it was still early so we had around one hour to eat something (guessed right, it’s Bratwurst time!) while we waited for our guided tour to start.

Heidelberg Castle

Built in the 15th century, this was the residence of the prince-elector of the region. He built it on the side of a hill, as a king of natural defense system (there is a good reason why a cable car exists in order to climb up…) This castle has been destroyed three times, and almost four! Our guide went through all of the dramatic stories around these destructions.

  1. It all started with Frederick V, elector palatine and Protestant. When he became King of Bohemia and Holy Sacred Emperor, he didn’t imagine that it would trigger the Thirty Years War between Catholics and Protestants. Friedrich had to escape with his family to the Netherlands. The Heidelberg castle, that he built up to be magnificent for his wife, was burned after two years. Aftermath of the Thirty Years War: out of 8 million people, some fled while others died either in war, or of famine.
  2. The second destruction came shortly after this one. After that war, his son, Karl Ludwig I, came back to the castle. He married his daughter to Louis XIV’s brother, Philippe d’Orléans, in order to maintain good relationships. But when the latter died, the palatine crown fell into the hands of a distant Catholic cousin of his, who seized the castle and destroyed it again before leaving it 4 years after.
  3. But happy stories are short. In the 18th century, Karl-Theodor built a new palace in Mannheim and it became the new capital of his land (Palatinate and Bavaria). The Heidelberg castle was therefore only used for the storage of gunpowder. One stormy night, a lightning struck… and there again the castle was almost completely destroyed.

The castle was never completely reconstructed, and it was abandoned until the 19th century, where it was saved by a French aristocrat, Charles de Graimberg, who fought for it to be preserved. Thanks to him, nowadays we can enjoy a delightful visit to this castle on the heights of Heidelberg.


View of the castle of Heidelberg from the Old Bridge

An interesting fact about Frederick V is that the current English monarchy descends from him. The last daughter of Frederick V, Sophia, almost became Queen of England (because she was Protestant). Instead, her son was crowned as King George I and ever since, the line of succession has never been broken.

The region of the Palatinate is and has always been famous for its wine. Taxes were paid in wine, and all that wine would be put into giant barrels and served in the feasts. Nothing to be jealous of, our guide explained to us that mixing different kinds of low quality wine (because obviously the producers kept the best wine for their business!) did not offer a very tasty wine in the end. But people at that time actually had no choice. The Neckar was an open air sewage, so wine was actually cleaner than water from the river!

There is still one of these giant barrels on display at the cellar. We didn’t really believe our guide until he told us to go there and check it with our own eyes after the guided tour. And indeed: 200 228 L of wine in a HUGE barrel. There are stairs for climbing to the top of it, where there is like a small dance floor! That’s why this wine barrel currently holds the title of the world’s largest wine barrel.

This guide was one of the youngest and funniest we had so far. He was at the same time studying a Master in History, which explained why he would tell us all the hidden stories behind the nobility which such passion.



View from the castle

Free time at the city center

After the visit, we still had some hours before the bus would pick us up. So we decided to grab something to eat or drink and spend the rest of the sunny afternoon in the charming old Heidelberg. Even if it was a Sunday, Heidelberg’s city center is crowded, the ice cream stores and cafés are humming with activity. With this weather, nothing is more refreshing than a Radler, which is 50/50 soda and beer and ice-cream (the official ISU dessert). We could lounge in a table at the terrasses at a café, and after a short stroll, try another terrasse. Terrasse/Stroll/Ice cream repeat. A pretty way to end our weekend in beautiful Baden-Wurttemberg.



Our first impressions after one week

Seven days have proved being rich in experiences, be them at h_da, in Darmstadt, or in Hessen! Let’s find out what some of the participants of the ISU 2017 have felt over this week[1].

Roger Lo“It’s my first time going abroad, so I feel full of challenges. I want to be able to familiar with Germany.”

Roger Lo
Department of Computer Science Master’s program
National Chiao Tung University (Hsinchu, Taiwan).

Rovshan Sharifli“The first week was great. I am very happy to be in this program. Lectures are interesting and interactive (especially E-Mobility). German class is very effective.”

Rovshan Sharifli
Automation Engineering
Azerbaijan State Oil and Industry University (Baku, Azerbaijan)

Capture d_écran 2017-08-09 à 00.39.56“The first week in h-da was interested and I had many challenges. German class is very difficult for me. Sometimes I was not sure that was English or German. I hope I could have a great presentation in German class in the end of this summer vacation.”

Ziwei (Amanda) Liu
Electronic Engineering
North China University of Technology (Beijing, China)

Capture d_écran 2017-08-08 à 21.57.44“The first week of the ISU was very amazing. From the day that I landed here; the city, the country they are wonderful. The german class is quite hard tho, but the lectures are very useful to be applied.”

Gregorius (Greg) Andhika
Civil Engineering
Sepuluh Nopember Institute of Technology (Surabaya, Indonesia)

Capture d_écran 2017-08-08 à 22.15.33“The content of the course is interesting and applicable. It is easy to see that we are studying in one of the countries leading this field.”

Gaetan Deschenes
Mechanical Engineering
UMass Lowell (Lowell, Massachussets, United States)

Capture d_écran 2017-08-08 à 22.06.10“It is my second visit to Germany.  The first week was amazing, especially, weekend- climbing park. It was full of scare :). Lectures are interesting and  I believe German class and lectures will help to improve my knowledge.”

Rahman Huseynov
Automation Engineering
Azerbaijan State Oil and Industry University (Baku, Azerbaijan)

Moreover, we wouldn’t have had such a good kick-start of stay in Germany if, in addition to the programme manager Jessica Mayer, the h_da student assistants weren’t here. We really owe them not only the good proceedings of the activities planned but also the best tips in town, plenty of nice pictures and lots of good laughs.

Mona Anheim

Bachelor of Arts, Motion Pictures

Lara Bolius

Bachelor of Arts, Online Communication

Ahmad Anabtawi

Bachelor of Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Communication Technology

capture-d_ecc81cran-2017-08-09-acc80-01-42-46.png lara ahmad









[1] The English spelling or grammar has not been « corrected » in order to keep the authenticity of the participants records.

Week 2: Smart Infrastructures

IHM: Prof. Dr. Christian Bürgy

First lecture of the week focused on Building Information Modelling (BIM) and its applications. We saw example videos of BIM in use and a tool that our teacher advised us to try, such as Autocad A360. The importance of BIM relies on the fact that it can allow us to use augmented reality in smart infrastructures, as we can input it into an augmented reality application in order to enhance human-machine interaction.

This is when we visited the laboratory and tried some awesome augmented reality gadgets. One of them is a pair of data glasses, with an integrated screen where images and text can be displayed. We also tried the Microsoft’s HoloLens, and that was a step into the future. The HoloLens at h_da has actually a BIM of the laboratory room, and therefore virtual objects can interact with the surroundings. Once you put on these glasses, a menu displayed on a certain location in the room showed us different “objects” that we could “insert” anywhere the room, such as a virtual cat, a virtual spaceship, a virtual dog… All of this was controlled with a hand motion as a click. The virtual object was then integrated into the room and therefore we could find it even after restarting the HoloLens.


Alex trying out the Microsoft HoloLens

Energy conversion efficiency: Prof. Dr.-Ing. Bernhard Hoppe

The main topic in this lecture is the optimisation of the conversion efficiency in power management. The conversion efficiency of 100% can never be attained, however there are aspects which can be adjusted in order to optimize this value. This course was more technical oriented than any of the other courses before, because we talked about thermodynamics and entropy, thermal cycles, capacitance and inductance problems. It was also useful to get to know typical values for thermal efficiency as well as the relative losses in the transmission of electric energy. These are notions that are more widely used in a professional context than the calculations, currently handled by powerful computing software. The professor explained in such a way that even the students with no previous engineering knowledge could learn some basic principles.

Internet Security: Prof. Dr.-Ing. Shun-Ping Chen

Internet of Things (IoT) is fundamental for the new smart cities! The applications are infinite: smart grids, intelligent medical devices, intelligent digital signage, home energy management, traffic flow optimization, logistic optimization… In order to ensure a correct functioning of the latter, the transmission of the data involved has to be secured. This is actually why there are so many debates about IoT and data privacy. We discussed important issues about network security and the potential risks. The most interesting part though was about the encryption methods (symmetric, asymmetrical and hybrid). We realised that current systems are becoming bigger and more complex, and therefore cybersecurity has a key role in the development of smart infrastructures.