American and German refrigeration students team up for the 6th year in a row

Summer is the perfect time to learn about air-conditioning and refrigeration, and as the largest academic HVAC lab in the world, Purdue's Herrick Labs is the perfect place. Every summer since 2016, Herrick Labs has hosted a unique cross-cultural learning collaboration, which includes graduate students from Purdue University, Oklahoma State University, and Technical University of Dresden in Germany.


The International Refrigeration and Compressor Course (IRCC) started in 2016.  “Our goal was to create a master’s level course in refrigeration and compressors,” said Eckhard Groll, Reilly Professor of Mechanical Engineering.  “But in the 21st century, all engineering is done on a global basis. So it’s important that Purdue students are exposed to engineers from other cultures.”

Groll found a perfect partner in Ullrich Hesse, the Bitzer Professor of Refrigeration, Cryogenic, and Compressor Technology at TU Dresden.  “Purdue is a perfect place to do this,” said Hesse, “because they are well-known in the industry for compressor research.  And I only hire people who have backgrounds in international communication.  So this course was perfect.”

An important aspect of the course has traditionally been international travel. Purdue students travel to Germany and spend a week with their classmates in Dresden, touring through manufacturing plants and laboratories. Then students are teamed up during the summer – one from Purdue, one from TU Dresden – to work on a hypothetical design project involving refrigeration and compressors, which they present jointly at Purdue.

“We give the students different challenges to tackle, that involve both theoretical analyses and real-world aspects,” said Davide Ziviani, who now runs the course for Purdue. “For example, they would be tasked to design a refrigerated ice rink in Dubai, or a container to transport ice cream.”

Of course, everything changed in 2020, when COVID made international travel impossible. Students still wanted to press ahead, so Ziviani reorganized the class to be completely online. “It actually wasn’t as big a change as you might think,” he said. “In previous years, the American and German students had to coordinate their summer work remotely via Skype, WhatsApp, Dropbox, and Facebook. The only change was that now all of our meetings, lectures, and presentations were also done remotely via Zoom.”

The 2021 class also took place online, but with several additions. Leading the course in Germany was Riley Barta (BSME ’16, PhD ’20), who spent the last 5 years working with Groll and Ziviani at Herrick Labs, and now serves as a refrigeration team leader at TU Dresden. Also, Purdue was able to include an in-person contingent of students from Oklahoma State University, led by Craig Bradshaw (BSME ’07, PhD ’12), who had also studied under Groll at Herrick Labs. In total, this year’s class consisted of 5 Purdue students, 3 Oklahoma State students, and 8 TU Dresden students.

Like all online classes, it has its drawbacks. “The magic of IRCC really happens with the international cultural experience of visiting each other’s countries,” said Ziviani. “Obviously Zoom limits the kind of in-person relationships, social activities, and bonding we’ve had over the years. Likewise, we had to make some creative substitutions for lab work, so that both German and American students got the same learning experience, even without physically being together. Still, it was great to see our German friends, and we welcomed the chance to have Oklahoma State students here with us at Herrick Labs.”

In fact, they are already planning for 2022. They receive funding from the Schaufler Foundation, established by Peter Schaufler: former CEO of Bitzer, a German company that manufactures refrigeration compressors.

“It really is one-of-a-kind teaching and learning experience for us faculty, and more importantly, for the students,” said Ziviani. “They learn how to work cross-culturally, interact with team members, and manage refrigeration design projects that are truly global.”

The 2022 International Refrigeration and Compressor Course will take place May 29 – June 4, 2022 in Dresden; and August 14 – 20, 2022 at Oklahoma State University. For further questions or to apply for the course, please contact Riley Barta at and Davide Ziviani at


Writer: Jared Pike,, 765-496-0374

Source: Davide Ziviani,

Video from the first International Refrigeration and Compressor Course