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Exploring Science And Business By Train

May Term


In a class taught by professors George Wright and Dr. John Kenney, nine students got to see the intersection of science and business through the world of railroads. The class included a 10-day trip to Europe to look at, ride, and even operate trains in London, Paris, Barcelona, and Madrid.

“We observed countless applications of business and technology,” says Wright, administrative dean of the School of Business. “Students learned about how railroads were used in war, agriculture, elections, and more.”

The course was the second in a series of courses combining business and science students and giving them “the opportunity to experience the integrated and intertwined world of business and science,” says Wright. Kenney and Wright provided a similar experience at Concordia University Irvine in 2011 using automobiles.

After ten class periods of lectures and laboratory experiments, students journeyed to the L.A. Metro’s headquarters in Lynwood where the light rail and subway system is monitored. Then it was off to the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles to see the intersection of trains and shipping.

After exploring the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento in an in-depth tour, the class left for London.

All along the way, Wright taught about “business, financing, economics, impacts on institutions and continents,” and Kenney, professor of chemistry and chemical physics, taught about the chemistry, physics, metallurgy and environmental impact of railroads.

“Dr. Kenney would talk about how a particular locomotive worked and I would say how it fit into the Industrial Revolution.”

“Dr. Kenney would talk about how a particular locomotive worked and I would say how it fit into the Industrial Revolution,” says Wright. “It’s quite interesting to see how the railroad impacted people’s lives and the economy.”

Students visited the London Museum of Water and Steam, then took the Chunnel to Paris for a visit to the Eiffel Tower, which uses the same type of construction as 19th century iron railway bridges. The TGV highspeed railroad ferried them from Paris to Barcelona. On the last day they went to an amusement park in Madrid where one of the student’s fathers is the president.

“Our last day of homework was to ride roller coasters all day,” Wright jokes. Kenney notes that a roller coaster “is a 3-dimensional railroad with triple wheel units that surround the tracks, keeping the coaster from falling off.”

The high point of the class, Wright says, was the students’ increased awareness of how railroads are an integral piece of the economy, touching everything from food to daily commutes to the mailing of packages. Kenney’s personal high point “was blasting down the track at 200 miles per hour in the TGV,” and the fact that “Concordia students actually got to take the throttle of a real steam locomotive and move the class around the track at the London Museum of Water and Steam.”

Wright says he hopes students “understand that this is part of the system of delivering of goods and people, to develop and sustain societies.”

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