Exploring west China

Lanzhou, Gansu Province, P.R. China

The CEBS students are now half way through the Master Consultancy Projects. We have been studying various aspects of China for nearly a year now and we have been living in the metropolitan city of Shanghai where the world is our oyster. But the reality is that there is a whole other side of China that is frequently overshadowed by Eastern China.

The Master Consultancy Project at Materialise China gives the opportunity to travel to west China: a relatively under-developed area of China that lies in strong contrast with the well-developed Eastern (coastal) area of China.

The project aims to boost development of west China by introducing innovation and technology to the younger generation, in particular 3D-Printing technology. By means of a ‘Dream Bus’ -which can be transformed into a high-tech classroom- we drive through west China and visit schools to introduce the possibilities and technology of 3D-Printing.

I participated as volunteer during the Lanzhou Dream Bus Stop in Gansu province while my group members volunteered in Wuwei (Gansu province) and Huzhu (Qinghai province). While Lanzhou (capital of Gansu province) is certainly not the most rural and under-developed city you can find in west China, you can still see that the city is very different from coastal cities. The first thing you will notice are the large sand mountains surrounding the city that cause for the occasional sandstorm.Lanzhou Landscape

Lanzhou landscape
Lanzhou’s mountains of sand

The Arabic influence on this city can be observed throughout as the Muslim community is large in Lanzhou. This translates itself in the local food offerings. Lanzhou is famous for its noodles and the a-ma-zing things they do with Lamb meat. For those not used to eating spicy food –like me- having a bottle of water or tea nearby is highly advisable.

Lanzhou Spicy Lamb Sticks
Famous Traditional Lanzhou Tea
Famous Spicy Lanzhou Snack

As part of the project, we visited 2 schools in Lanzhou and gave 3D-Printing classes to various groups of middle-schoolers. The first school we visited was on top of a mountain. After a rough and bumpy ride up, we arrived at the school. When entering the classroom where we would give some classes, the (lack of) resources available became evident. They had some old computers and beamers available but the rest of the classroom contains just the basic interior. The environmental conditions of Lanzhou where also noticeable as it was dusty and sandy everywhere.

But this did not affect the enthusiasm of the children at all. They were very excited to learn about 3D-Printing technology and happy to be given the opportunity to design a printable model themselves.

Lanzhou students
Lanzhou students designing 3D printable models
Lanzhou students
Lanzhou Classroom

The second school we visited was back in the city of Lanzhou. The official Kick-off ceremony took place there. Immediately the differences with the western education system and Chinese education system became evident. Foremost the discipline and control was what struck the most. All the students of the school were gathered to attend the welcoming ceremony; orderly in lines they marched out and were directed to their appropriate places whilst chanting. We also got to see students performing a song as part of their music class.

Lanzhou welcome ceremony

Also at the second school, students where excited and engrossed with designing a 3D printable model. When given the opportunity later that afternoon to view the 3D printers, they could not wait to see their designed models.

Student proud at designed 3D model
Students excited to see their models printed

At the end of the visit in Lanzhou, the volunteers received a certificate. But it is not the certificate that holds value for us: it is the joy and excitement we were able to give the children which cannot be captured in a certificate.

Volunteer certificate received

Learn more about this CEBS Consultancy Project.qrcode

– Xin