Tenth engineering colloquium: Technical excellence meets German history

Hof/Helmbrechts – The evening of November 13 at the Hof University of Applied Sciences was dedicated entirely to technical excellence. Together with Raumedic, the sponsor of the colloquium, the university presented the tenth annual award for the best degree theses at the faculty of engineering. 

Winners of the best master theses

The first place winner was Johannes Vetter from Ebnath. For his master thesis, he examined how ceramic could be made less breakable with the help of special fibers. The jury distinguished the work by the Upper Palatinate student with a prize of  €1,000. Second place was shared by master degree students Florian Sack and Lukas Wagner. Their engineering theses were awarded €100 each.

Balloon ride to freedom

Guest speaker Günter Wetzel underscored how a technical understanding can be essential in one’s private sphere as well. He escaped to West Germany from the former GDR in a homemade hot air balloon forty years ago. Now 64 years old, Wetzel also made two earlier balloon attempts that failed.

On September 16, 1979, Günter Wetzel tried it a third time. “We had to start preparing for the landing after just 28 minutes in the air because we ran out of gas. And we weren’t sure if the land below us was even West Germany.” Wetzel, who dared the unusual journey with his own and another family, was in luck. All eight occupants landed close to Naila near Hof around 3:00 in the morning. 

Witness to German history

Wetzel would like to have been a physicist; the GDR didn’t let him. Later, after his escape, he become a flight instructor. Today, the Thuringian is a much sought-after witness to history who enjoys sharing his story with younger generations. And he was able to do just that at the engineering colloquium; as Thomas Knechtel, member of the Raumedic Executive Board, said: “The balloon ride was 40 years ago, German reunification 30 years ago. The tenth engineering colloquium was thus the ideal occasion to have a remarkable piece of German history brought to life once again.”

About the engineering colloquium

Since March 2015, the Hof University of Applied Sciences in conjunction with sponsor Raumedic has recognized the best bachelor and master theses from the engineering department, once a year for each degree. The first place winner receives a trophy and €1,000, and the second and third place winners each receive €100.

Several factors are used to evaluate the papers: The evaluation of the professor who oversaw the work, the relevance of the work to science and industrial use and – to a limited degree – the grade for the entire work.

The idea for the engineering colloquium was suggested by Professor Dr. Michael Nase, the chair for plastics technology. He wants to use the event as a forum where students, members of the business community and members of the university can regularly meet with one another. In this context, Raumedic presents itself as a potential employer who can offer prospective academics diverse employment opportunities in Germany and abroad. More than 50 graduates of the Hof University of Applied Sciences already work with the medical device and pharmaceutical industry partner.

Johannes Vetter (front center) was distinguished with the Raumedic Award for his master thesis on November 13. Lukas Wagner (second from left) and Florian Sack (second from right) shared second place. Celebrating the awards were Professor Marek Gorywoda (left) and Ina Löbus (third from left), guest speaker Günter Wetzel (right), Raumedic Executive Board member Thomas Knechtel (back left), event initiator Michael Nase (back right) and Stefan Knaus-Bierbaum, HR manager at Raumedic.

Günter Wetzel, who fled the GDR forty years ago in a hot air balloon, spoke at the tenth engineering colloquium about the technical challenges of his balloon ride.

This year, the buffet enticed guests with culinary delicacies from East and West Germany.