The mission of the Program for Assistive Technologies for Underprivileged (PATU) is to allow students to practice engineering skills while they develop strong communication and teamwork skills, gain global perspective, and learn social responsibility through projects for persons with disabilities that otherwise could not afford assistance.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Today we had an early start to learn all we could about Brazil, Brazilian culture, Universidad Estadual de Santa Cruz (UESC), and some cool things they do in Engineering at UESC. 

Brazil and Brazilian Culture

I think we all learned a lot of really cool things today about the place we are visiting, its heritage, and people. Here are a few key things that I wrote down and thought I'd share.

  • Brazil is the 5th largest country.  And it is nearly a square (although not really in shape).  It is approximately 4,700 miles from north to south, as well as east to west!  The population is somewhere around 109 million people, and it has 26 states that they break up into 5 regions.  We are in the state of Bahia in the Northeast region.    They are also the 8th largest economy in the world (and growing!).
  • The Brazilian government has changed significantly in the last century, from being a dictatorship, to a democracy, to a dictatorship again (military this time), and then back to a democracy.  Throughout these changes, they have always had a strong congress, which I found to be very interesting.  They have been a democracy now for 30 years and are hoping to keep it that way.  It is interesting to note, too, that all of their laws are Federal laws.  States can make their own laws, but Federal always trumps State, and no one can "escape" to another state to avoid prosecution of a certain law.
  • Their culture is beautifully mixed and enriched with a deep heritage.  Their culture is a meshing of Portuguese, Native Indian, African, European, and even Asian cultures that have settled here.  They actually do not really even classify people by race or culture, but just embrace everyone as "Brazilian" because everything is so mixed and accepted.  It's really quite extraordinary.
  • There is an area (maybe even a "town") in/near Sao Paolo called "Americana" that was settled by Confederates from America who were not happy with the result of the Civil War.  I thought that was funny.
  • There is a city called Minas Gerias in the Southeast region that is recognized by the United Nations and the entire world as a historic landmark.  Yes, the ENTIRE city.  There is no development or change allowed to the city indefinitely.
Engineering at UESC

We had a great time getting a tour of the university from students in their "Production Engineering" program (comparable to an Industrial Engineering program in the US), as well as having lunch with them, and hearing more about what they do.  They have a very interesting program they have started called "Junior Enterprise" that would be a good consideration for our students back at SAU!  They are a club, but more than a club, that does consulting-type projects, as well as outreach events, for companies in the area.  Some examples they gave are that they had a round-table discussion with alumni who are working in industry and UESC students, a course in how to use Excel, and Kaizen training.  Check them out at www.optimusejr.com.br

They best part of the day was seeing our students interact and engage with the UESC students so well.  I think they are really enjoying getting to know each other!


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