Irish study abroad opportunity leads student to greener pastures

Follow Michelle Cometa on Twitter
Follow RITNEWS on Twitter

A. Sue Weisler

Matt Bridges saw that electronics and engineering technology were not so different “across the pond.” He was CAST’s first student to attend Dublin Institute of Technology as part of a study abroad opportunity between the two colleges this past year.

Matt Bridges had the luck of the Irish on his side as he planned his spring semester at the Dublin Institute of Technology in just a matter of weeks.

“I’ve always wanted to go to Ireland. As you can tell with the red hair and freckles, I have some family ties to the country, so it’s always been one of the places I wanted to travel to,” said Bridges, who set foot in Ireland as the College of Applied Science and Technology’s first participant in its new study abroad relationship with the Dublin university.

“One of the biggest hurdles was getting everything sorted out,” said the fifth-year electrical engineering technology major. “I had no passport; I needed to figure out a schedule, find housing, find enough money to pay for the trip, tickets.”

He managed the challenges and had an international experience that continues to influence his focus on engineering and “green” technologies.

Dublin Institute of Technology is more than 120 years old and has nearly 22,000 students enrolled in its undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs, many similar to degree programs offered at RIT, particularly in the electrical, mechanical and design engineering fields. Dublin Institute comprises four colleges and 27 academic schools spread out across the city. Bridges spent his time in the electrical and electronics building, about the size of Eastman Hall. He took a full course load, and all credits were transferred into his current program, keeping him on track for graduation this spring. Most of his classmates were lads and lasses from Ireland; others were from Poland, Kuwait and China. He was one of only a handful from the U.S.

“I thought RIT was diverse, but there it was even more so.”

While traveling during breaks, he was shocked at the difference between the bustling city and the seaside and farms outside of Dublin.

“Ireland may have Viking villages and castles, but it has no hockey rinks,” said Bridges, who has played the sport since he was 7 years old growing up in Salamanca, N.Y. He missed playing and watching games on TV. “I decided to grow a study-abroad beard. When I came back, my girlfriend made a decision that it was coming off.”

Back at RIT (and clean-shaven), he resumed work with RIT Production Services as a production engineer and participated in his second Tough Mudder competition, a national fundraising event consisting of military obstacle course challenges. All proceeds go toward the Wounded Warrior Project.

Bridges also taught himself the basics of signal processing. “I just wanted to get a jump start on a class this fall. This is the first time I’ve tried something like this; but I guess I picked it up from Ireland, because the class structure was a bit different there. They focus on in-classroom work and labs but there is also an emphasis on teaching yourself, too.”

Bridges said that independent thinking is serving him well as part of a thermo-electrical cooling project with CAST alumnus Kevin Surace ’85 (electrical engineering technology). Surace was named Inc. magazine’s Entrepreneur of the Year in 2009 for his work developing building materials to reduce energy usage and greenhouse gasses.

And to Bridges, he believes this work will be more than a lucky Irish charm; it will boost his knowledge of a growing field in sustainability and lead to greener pastures.