Day 4: Architecture, Art, and Companies

8 May 2019 – Continental and Regensburg

I woke up, stretched, put on my suit, grabbed a croissant, went to the bus, and knocked out for two hours till we reached Regensburg. So, my day really begins in this beautiful, ancient city. 

We met up with a tour guide who showed us all the wonders of the city. It was developed by the Romans and matches Augsburg in age, with ancient beauties whose heights don’t match modern architecture, but whose grandeur far outpaces it. Out of the dwellings that are still used today, internal rooms are rather small for efficient heating, and aren’t very tall, except for adjoining towers to each residential place. These spaces are still small because there are laws protecting the historical significance of the rooms, meaning shops are also really small. As the tour guide described, the towers were there for purely aesthetic and dominant reasons, with no actual functionality besides the right to brag to other neighbors about the amount of wealth one had. 

We also visited some really cool places, such as this large cathedral with epic stained glass windows and figures inside. The crypts were intricate, and the shrines were breathtaking (pictured below). I was really fascinated with the dynamic of tourist and resident when it comes to churches, because there are people like us who were taking pictures and admiring the aesthetics of the church, and at the same time and place, there are people who are worshipping and praying, and have done so on a daily basis. It made me think about how people deal with tourists in their sacred and really personal places when it comes to tourist attractions such as Regensburg because I know I would have a difficult time with it.

Something that was also really interesting that I noticed was an artists’ representation of the Trump Administration, pictured below. 

I had to think for a little while about what this really meant, in relation to German perceptions and culture and I came to the conclusion, upon some discussion with colleagues that the primary reason for this artwork being displayed in the window of a shop, was that Germans are very particular and proper, and Trump is an antithesis of what their culture represents. Germans are also very globally aware and so something as socially horrendous as the Trump administration is probably on their minds a lot and clearly significant enough to make a window display of. 

After ending the tour of Regensburg, we took cute pictures (below) and headed off to Continental! 

Continental was by far the most organized company we visited, but unfortunately I don’t have pictures. They were very secure and required our passports to enter, also prohibiting us from using or accessing any personal devices. This wasn’t an issue, however, as they provided us with the most elegant graph ruled notepad along with pens, highlighters, other Continental merch, and 6 different bottled drinks. Everything was so aesthetically pleasing and I was very impressed as I took my seat in the conference room. 

After a small lecture on the company logistics, we ate at a nice canteen, took a tour of their amazing facility, and attended a lecture on leadership in innovation that was given by an executive of the company. I took extensive notes on the lectures and attached them as PDFs below — now for a description of the amazing tour!: 

We were greeted by two enthusiastic guys, clearly nerds (my people!) who vibrantly gave us the run down of the security protocol to enter the facility we were going to visit. We had to put our stuff and jackets away in lockers or hangers, wear electrostatic proof overalls and shoe covers, and get tested at a grounding machine to make sure we were valid to enter the premises. 

We went through different stations of the facility, not exactly in order of the assembly line. We were walked through circuit printing lines were a plane silicon board would be inserted and a printed circuit board with the appropriate element patterns and connections would be printed and outputted. Then we walked through an entire line of circuit assembly, starting from preparation by putting soldering paste onto the connections, and then each element at rates of 2,000 items per minute!, soldering the elements via an oven, and then checking it using artificial intelligence and a large database. I was so amazed because I had taken a circuits analysis and design course the past semester, as well as getting additional hands on experience through my systems engineering course and I was always intrigued at how precise and tiny the circuits in industrial grade hardware are. For someone who had to reprint and design a circuit multiple times because the soldering was too difficult by hand, I was shocked at how tiny and precise these machines are. Since one of my majors is electrical engineering, I really appreciated this tour from a technical perspective. 

We also saw some really cool technology in the high end factory; specifically these automated robots that facilitated the inventory flow of the plant. They were intelligent enough to drive themselves completely autonomously, making sure not to bump into each other or anything or anyone else. They could even charge themselves, but never for longer than a few minutes at a time to maintain optimal efficiency. They even communicated with each other so that they knew which load to carry and what their job was, assigning jobs to robots based on location and availability. This kind of tech was really mind blowing, as it was essentially fully autonomous robots replacing one of the key jobs of a human factory worker: mobility of products in a factory. It was exciting to see because if technology that advanced existed, there’s tons of hope for similar future technologies as a commonplace in society, and indicates our technical ability to do something grand like colonize Mars. These robots were also significant because it really drove home the idea of efficiency in German manufacturing. A widely accepted and pursued philosophy in the world of advanced technical manufacturing, is Kaizen: the idea of continuous improvement. The robotic system had to have costed tens of millions of euros, if not more, a cost that might not have been worth it for at least a few decades since workers are much cheaper than development costs and don’t have a ‘maintenance fee’. However the time that was saved was a worthy trade off and so the system was research and developed. 

Jeff and I roamed the city in our free time, exploring the shops and spending way too much time at H&M. We couldn’t find any ice cream places, but that’s fine because we were going to have dinner in less than an hour. We went to a really nice Regensburg restaurant, and me and Sahana (the other vegetarian!) split the only 2 vegetarian options on the menu so we could try everything out. Something I’ve learnt about the German cuisine from my short time here, and quite frankly something I had anticipated, is that it’s very meat-intensive. It’s not exactly vegetarian friendly, and most of the dishes revolve around meat. Since the portions are very large, meals are very heavy. Almost everyone, except Jeff, had difficulty finishing their foods – even the people who ordered the vegetarian option. Above are pictures of our mouth watering food! We left Regensburg and arrived back home around 9-10 pm, which meant that as soon as I got back I fell asleep (literally in half my suit, I was quite exhausted). That’s it for today, but I’ll be back tomorrow! 🙂

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