New hydrogen technology course

Bavarian university gets hydrogen experts on board

Skills compass for the mechanical engineering bachelor’s program at FHWS © FHWS
Skills compass for the mechanical engineering bachelor’s program at FHWS © FHWS

The mechanical engineering faculty at the University of Applied Sciences Würzburg-Schweinfurt, FHWS, is taking action to address the energy transition by developing a new hydrogen technology course. The move comes amid Bavaria’s drive to accelerate regional development through its Hightech Agenda program which is channeling investment into clean technologies. From October 2021, FHWS students should have the option to delve deeper into the subject of hydrogen, giving them the chance to pursue a career in this environmentally crucial area. The new course focuses particularly on the development and operation of hydrogen plants as well as plant and workplace safety. FHWS intends to shape the content of the course through continuous dialog with businesses and their specialist staff, with the expectation that this will lead to project collaborations at a later date.

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Since 2017, the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at FHWS, in southeastern Germany, has been investigating the skills that its future graduates will need and how these could be incorporated into its study programs. This research has enabled the faculty to develop an extensive skills profile for its mechanical engineering degree, covering specialist as well as interdisciplinary skills. The profile can also be modified for use by other technical courses. The adaptation process involves technical experts convening in guided workshops and adjusting the skills profile to suit their own specialist field.

On Nov. 27, 2020, discussions were held at a digital workshop entitled H2-Forum on the creation of a promising new hydrogen technology course which aims to match the skills taught on the program to the needs of industry. The event was initiated by the BEST-FIT project team as part of the teaching quality program, a scheme supported by the German education ministry since 2017. Talks explored a number of topics, in particular the project- and competence-related entry phase of technical courses, and resulted in the creation of the above-mentioned skills profile.

Thanks to the university’s long history of industry cooperation as well as the support of Stefan Dürr, head of innovation and technology at the Center Hydrogen.Bavaria – H2.B, over 40 top engineers and project planners in addition to management executives from relevant companies across Germany were able to participate in the workshop. Dürr explained: “We think that the FHWS approach is extremely valuable as it not only gives rise to partnerships and collaborations but it also allows us to generate results collectively, thus enabling us to shape the hydrogen technology course in a way that promises to benefit academic teaching and the business world in the future.”

HOC2021

Views were sought primarily among technical experts who have developed hydrogen plants and who are responsible for maintaining their operation. Taking part in the workshop were a number of companies that have a business interest in hydrogen technology, including Airbus Operations, Linde, Thyssenkrupp Industrial Solutions, BMW, Schaeffler Technologies, H-Tec Systems, SL TecH2, ArianeGroup, Heitec Innovations, Green IT Concepts and Ferchau. These enterprises were joined by representatives from the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology and lecturers from various higher education establishments. Having been drawn from both academic and commercial spheres, the delegates were able to offer a broad range of perspectives when it came to collectively creating the skills profile for the new degree.

Skills research from mechanical engineering

But what precisely has gone into designing this skills profile? How was it developed? And what information is it founded upon? Even here, considerable emphasis was placed on the collaboration between the university and commercial organizations. For applied university education can only be suitably designed if future employers are engaged in the course planning process, inputting their essential requirements with regard to the specialist knowledge as well as interdisciplinary skills needed by their staff.

… Read more in the latest H2-International e-Journal, May 2021

Authors: Lisa Lehmann, Professor Winfried WilkeUniversity of Applied Sciences Würzburg-Schweinfurt, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering

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