Students “Having a Butcher’s” at London

For those of you not fluent in British slang, “having a butcher’s” means taking a good look at something. That is exactly what 11 ISE students and their professor, Kanton Reynolds, did this summer as they made London their classroom and “had a butcher’s” at three College of Engineering corporate partners’ – Coke, Mini, and IBM – manufacturing facilities.


The five-week trip to London was part of NC State Study Abroad Office’s UK STEM Program. It included the coursework for two classes, ISE 311 and one of the student’s choosing. “We looked at rate of return, interest, cost and benefits, the implications of Brexit, and more,” explained ISE junior Grant Jordan. “London is an amazing place to study abroad. I was able to not only take classes relating to my major and the arts but also to gain amazing experiences I would not have been able to otherwise.”

Along with coursework, the group visited the Coca-Cola European Partners Manufacturing Facility in Sidcup. Here is where they make the vast majority of Coke products for the region. The student team studied both germ-free and traditional manufacturing of beverage products including sodas, water and sports drinks in cans, pouches, and bottles.
They also toured the Mini factory in Oxford where BMW makes three of the five legendary Mini Cooper models. “What was most remarkable about that visit is that the fabrication of the vehicle frames is almost completely automated with more than 1200 robots in the facility,” explained Professor Reynolds.

Finally, they visited the Hursley House, an 18th-century mansion, which houses the IBM Hursley Research Lab. It is one of IBM’s largest innovation centers and software hubs. “They work on a variety of emerging technologies there including cryptography, artificial intelligence, blockchain, robotic microscopes, and quantum computing, said Reynolds. “Not only were we able to learn about their amazing technologies and upcoming ideas, but also their history and the history of the building and site itself,” recalled Jordan. “We partook in their ‘design thinking’ group exercise that was fun and intriguing. It opened my mind to a new way of thinking about problems and how to come to solutions.”


Along with the classroom program, an important part of the trip was allowing students to explore London’s culture. They had many opportunities to take in the arts and experience London’s nightlife.

“We were able to go to the Globe Theater and see Shakespeare’s plays, see a musical, and learn about other artists and important composers like Hendrix and Handel,” recalled Jordan. “We also watched the World Cup in a pub full of England fans! In London, especially this football season, soccer is a big deal, and everyone goes to the pub to watch the matches. The experience reminded me of going to NC State games and cheering for State in the student section. We met many friendly people and learned cheers as we joined the crowds in rooting on England! It was nice to feel like a true Londoner and get a great sense of their culture.”

One night, Jordan and three other students decided to sign up for a silent disco at the Shard, the tallest building in Western Europe. A silent disco is an event where people dance to music they listen to on wireless headphones instead of a speaker system. The dancer can select from several different DJs and their headphones light out the color of the DJ they choose. “We were dancing, having an amazing time, and met some cool people along the way,” explained Jordan. “We even made friends with a bachelorette party and danced with them for the rest of the night! It was amazing to meet so many people and have so much fun dancing. It was a night I will never forget!”


The Study Abroad Program gives students a competitive advantage in the job market by showing that they are resilient, adaptable, and culturally aware. Also, the enhanced learning environment furthers their studies in a way that complements the traditional classroom setting on campus. “We visited the Europe House (EH) while in London,” said Reynolds. “EH is the educational outreach arm of the European Union. We met with subject-matter experts on BREXIT who understand the economic and political implications of the phenomenon. This informed our classroom discussions by taking into consideration the effects it would have on supply chain cost, mobility of labor, and taxes/tariffs all of which are components of the ISE 311 course.”

“I can travel on my own and find my way which opens my options as far as a job search goes, said Jordan. “I have grown as an individual. This trip has allowed me to mature as well as give me the confidence to go out and try crazy new things. I now know that I can talk to all sorts of different people and can find amazing people everywhere.”