Day 4: Innovating for the Future, Learning from the Past

Today was our company visit to Continental and on the ride there, we played cards on the bus ride. We played Rummy 500 and it worked surprisingly well especially considering our constrained playing space. When we got to Continental, we all had to sign in and get a name badge first. Then, we were led to a room where we were greeted with free water, orange juice, and vitamin gummies. After we were all settled in, the first presentation began. We were given a basic overview about Continental and told that the company involves much more than just selling tires. Their business actually has multiple sectors including safety, chassis, powertrains, sensors, and more. The especially exciting part occurred when he started explaining the company’s view for the future, which included electric cars and autonomous vehicles. When he opened the floor for questions, we barraged him about competition with Tesla, the viability of autonomous vehicles, and changing market forecasts.

After the first talk, we had lunch in the company workplace and since I was feeling adventurous, I had apricot-filled dumplings in vanilla sauce, potato clouds, and a mixed berry fruit juice, all of which ended up being very tasty. After lunch, we were given another presentation, this one about innovation, where the presenter outlined what it took to be inventive. One example he gave that I thought was interesting was from a German philosopher who believed that the world consisted of systems made up of three parts: the thesis, the antithesis, and the synthesis. As an example, he explained that if fire was the thesis, water could be the antithesis, and steam would then be the synthesis. He went on to say that bringing two things together that shouldn’t be together (like fire and water in his example) result in innovation (a steam engine). I found this idea of bringing two opposites together very thought-provoking.

After the talk, we were able to go on a visit of the factory where we saw sensors being made from raw materials to a finished product. Before going in though, we had to put on lab coats and booties to electrically ground us so that we wouldn’t destroy any chips inside. The most intriguing part of the manufacturing process for me was how often they had to scan or examine the sensors along the path of their production to make sure that they were of adequate quality. It seemed like there was almost as many machines checking as there were constructing the sensors! The other amazing thing about the factory was the autonomous robots that roamed the factory, bringing parts around. They reminded me of droids from Star Wars and even though they didn’t have feelings, they seemed to get irritated at out tour group when we got in their way and they had to carefully navigate around us.

After leaving Continental, we headed to the nearby city of Regensburg, which was a preserved medieval city. On our tour, right off the bat, we saw something I found cool, that being the city’s standard measurement sticks. They were pieces of metal nailed to city hall that served as the standard measurements of the city in case of disputes. We saw medieval towers and paintings, saw the oldest fast food place in the world, and then got to see people kayaking on the Danube river that passes just outside of Regensburg. Our tour guide told us a story about the bridge that the kayakers were floating near. Legend has it that the bridge builder got the devil’s help in building the bridge and in return, the devil got the first three souls that crossed the finished bridge. However, when the bridge was completed, the architect sent across a pig, a chicken, and a cow, fulfilling the devil’s requirement without sacrificing human souls. The devil, angry about being tricked, is said to live in the eddies underneath the bridge.

We ate in a Biergarten for dinner and after dinner we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a parade in the streets for the Ascension of Christ, which was very interesting to see. On the bus ride back, our whole group got into sharing our favorite trick games, including ones called “the game of numbers,” “the green glass door,” “the hat game,” “the picnic game,” and “cosmic.” These games all had a similar flavor. The answer to each is very simple but requires that one thinks outside of the box and finds the simple solution to the seemingly difficult problem. By the end of the bus ride, nearly everyone had gone through the stages of confusion, frustration, and eventually satisfaction of figuring out the solution to the games.

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