The Columns

International Endeavors: Mayol and Sheppard Spending a summer in Mar del Plata, Argentina, Juan Cruz Mayol and Sam Sheppard worked with two engineers on product development and testing efforts for an eco-friendly snowboard.

— by on May 11th, 2016

“It was an unbelievable experience to be able to live within a different culture. I was able to look through a completely different lens, and bring what I have learned back to our Washington and Lee community.”
— Sam Sheppard ’16

Ten Washington and Lee University students were chosen in 2015 for the International Student Collaboration, a program funded by a grant from the Endeavor Foundation. The program allowed five international students to each take home an American student for the summer.

During the summer months, the international students introduced their guests to the food and culture of their homeland and, in turn, saw their home country through new eyes. The pairs also worked on community service and research projects together.

The students recently took a little time to talk about their experiences and how they were affected by the opportunity.

Juan Cruz Mayol ’16 and Sam Sheppard ’16
Developing Eco-Friendly Snowboards
Mar del Plata, Argentina

In Argentina, Mayol and Sheppard conducted a service project funded by an Andrew W. Mellon Student Initiative grant. They worked with two engineers who had already been developing and testing a new kind of snowboard that is made from recycled materials and is recyclable itself.

The students joined in product development and testing efforts, and helped to create a small business plan for the product. They even took it out on the slopes!

What memories about the area you visited will stick with you the most, and why?

Sam: The most important memories of my time in Argentina are visiting Buenos Aires and Patagonia. The city of Buenos Aires’ vast size was unexpected and beautiful. I was fortunate enough to be able to walk around the city and observe the different types of architecture that compose different districts. Additionally, the view from the top of the mountains of Bariloche was breathtaking, to say the least.

What was it like introducing your study partner to your homeland? When you saw it through their eyes, what was different about it for you?

Juan: When I came to the U.S. I quickly had to get used to everything, which made me believe that it was not too different from my country. When Sam came, his questions about certain things made me realize how different our countries are. [Such as] differences in meals (amount and times), the emphasis we put on desserts.

Please briefly describe your project. Why did you choose this topic?

Juan: I chose this topic because I had been talking to the people who are in charge of the start-up before knowing about this opportunity. I was interested in helping them out. As an engineering and economics major, I could bring useful advice on both product development and launching. When I read about the opportunity, I thought it was the perfect way to be able to join their product development team covering my own costs (for material experimentation) and testing in Patagonia.

Sam: Our project was to help design, build and construct marketing strategies for a small company focused on building eco-friendly snowboards. We chose this project because we believed this idea to be both academically engaging and socially exciting.

What are the most important takeaways from the research to share with the university audience (and beyond), and how do you plan to do that?

Juan: Their team is fully composed of engineers without any business or economics background. Apart from being able to help them by bringing new ideas to the table, this experience also benefited me by helping me to acquire real-life experience about what it takes to come up with a new product from scratch and all the struggles a start-up with no funding faces — something you don’t learn in a classroom.

Sam: My most important takeaway from the research that we conducted is the lack of knowledge about the detrimental effect that both traditional skis and snowboards have on the environment due to their inability to recycle old products. The main focus that we can bring back to the university would be to raise more awareness on this issue, while simultaneously placing our new product and development process into the market space.

How do you think this project has enriched your overall educational experience at W&L?

Sam: From a social perspective, it was an unbelievable experience to be able to live within a different culture. I was able to look through a completely different lens, and bring what I have learned back to our Washington and Lee community.

Read about the other 2016 Endeavor pairs:

Amirah Ndam Njoya ’17 and Jenna Biegel ’17

Meera Kumar ’16 and Oyumaa Daichinkhuu ’16

Alejandro Paniagua ’17 and Kevin Ortiz ’16

Wan Wei ’17 and Olivia Howell ’17