And, they're off! AE study abroad group goes back to Brazil


Debra Levey Larson

As a part of the pre-trip class, the students visited Willard Airport
As part of the pre-trip class, students visited Willard Airport in Savoy, Illinois.

When the May 2019 spring semester ended, AE Professor Brian Woodard and Chief Undergraduate Adviser Laura Gerhold took a group of students on a short study abroad trip to Brazil. Finally, after a three-year pandemic hiatus, they are thrilled to escort a group of students on a similar trip.

In preparation for the trip, students must participate in a class led by Woodard and Gerhold.

Woodard said, even though traveling to Brazil wasn’t possible in 2021, he and Gerhold developed a global collaboration with a Brazilian company for the course last year. It worked well in the non-travel class last year, so they are repeating it this year with an optional trip at the end for the students.

“We thought it was important to still offer students the international experience even if it involved Zoom, rather than physical travel,” Woodard said.  “Students are doing a project that is the start of a unique international collaboration, requiring both aircraft performance knowledge and airline operational knowledge.”

He explained that Illinois students work in teams with Brazilian students to complete a corporate-sponsored project from a Brazilian company.  Azul airlines, one of the largest airlines in Brazil, is sponsoring it.

Although there are 17 students in the class who are participating in the project, only 12 are able to join the travel portion. 

According to Gerhold, the purpose of the trip is to provide a unique perspective to the education of aerospace engineering undergraduate students, in a more compressed time period.  “For some students, a full-semester study abroad trip is not a practical part of their undergraduate years, but many of those students are still interested in the international travel and experience.  This course and trip offer a structured way to travel to another culture while reinforcing aerospace-specific concepts from other parts of our curriculum.”

Gerhold said they made some other modifications to the overall trip and activities. “We are still working with students at Brazilian engineering schools and visiting aerospace companies, but we are traveling to the Brazilian coast this time rather than the capital, Brasilia.  We’ll still spend the majority of time in Sao Paulo.”