Launching A Cross-Cultural Exchange at EMCC 

To cross a cultural divide, there’s nothing quite like…a tennis ball launcher. The machines are bringing together students from Maine with students from France.”…avec college American…”There are some new sounds in the shop at Eastern Maine Community College. Students in Charles Whorton’s computer integrated machinery class are teaming up with a similar class in France.”It’s been fun to interact with people who don’t speak your language,” says student Charlie Haskell.The goal, design and build tennis ball launchers.”Make some sort of mechanism to fire a tennis ball a given distance, with a certain percentage of accuracy. So we’re taking part with them and co-producing, designing and building this,” says student Cole Wills.In the design phase now, they’re sharing plans online.There is one trade-off. The French students will speak English, while the American students will use the metric system.”In this shop, these machines aren’t set up to run metrically, they’re all on the American standard. So I look forward to the challenge, for sure,” Haskell says.The students are also learning about each other’s cultures, sharing videos about their lives.”I put a video together…I went deer hunting, but I ended up getting a partridge. And I sent it to them because they don’t hunt over there,” says student Phillip Moulton. He’s headed abroad this February as part of the program.Whorton came up with the idea, since his son works in France.”My son and I have been talking about it for a few years, exchanging ideas over the Internet, sending blueprints back and forth,” Whorton says.Students say learning to communicate has been a challenge, but helpful, since they’re entering a global field.The project goes all semester, until the big reveal.”We’ll take our parts, ship them over there and get their parts, and essentially construct these tennis ball launchers– and hopefully they work, and go together,” Wills says, with a smile.