Optimization and the Cold War

Image of Berlin, Germany
Location: Berlin, Germany
Language of Instruction: English
Term: Summer
Program Type: Faculty-led
Open to non-KU Students: No
Fulfills KU Core 4.2: No
Fulfills KU Core 5: No

  • Spend a month in the beautiful capital city of Berlin, Germany
  • Join KU students and Professor Kyle Camarda for this program
  • Apply principles of optimization to the historical event of the Berlin Airlift
  • Receive 3 hours of School of Engineering elective credit, C&PE 601

Taking place in Berlin in summer 2023, the Optimization and the Cold War study abroad program will introduce undergraduates to basic ideas in logistics and optimization theory, its application to scheduling and planning, and a historical context in which logistics was vital to success in geopolitics. The history of divided Berlin, 1945-1989, is a fascinating story of a political island: a city surrounded by a wall, maintained by Allied forces and constrained by the Soviet Empire. 

This class will teach the mathematics behind optimal supply chains, scheduling and planning strategies, and constrained logistics that military and civilian planners used to keep the population of Berlin supported and independent of East Germany. It will include visits to many Berlin-area sites connected to the Cold War period, including Checkpoint Charlie, Potsdam and the Glienicke Bridge — known as the Bridge of Spies — the Berlin Wall Memorial and the Gatow airport, used in the famous Berlin Airlift. A guided tour of Cecilienhof Palace, where the famous Potsdam agreement was signed, is also included. 

The program will be located for its entirety in the German capital city of Berlin. Multiple excursions in and around the immediate vicinity of Berlin will be an integral part of the program.

With a combination of lectures and site visits, students will gain a new understanding of logistics and optimization and see firsthand how optimization transformed a country and set the stage for the Cold War.

Students will enroll in 3 credits of C&PE 601 Undergraduate Topics in Chemical & Petroluem Engineering. This course can be used for multiple SOE majors as an elective. It will count as an EECS professional elective. 

This course will introduce undergraduates to basic ideas in logistics and optimization theory and its application to scheduling and planning. It will also show the links between advances in mathematics and computing and the ability of the Allies to supply West Berlin during the Cold War.  No prior knowledge of optimization or programming is needed.  An outline of course topics is as follows:

1. Logistics and the Traveling Salesman: Problem Formulation

2. Linear and Nonlinear Programming

3. Integer Programming

4. Applications of Optimization in Supply Chain Management and Logistics

The course will be graded on two quizzes and a final paper on a topic in optimization. 

Students will live in shared student residences in the city of Berlin with convenient access to major sites. 

SAGE is dedicated to creating international engagement opportunities that meet the needs of all our students and providing resources to support you through the process of studying abroad. Study abroad is achievable for students of all identities including our BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ students, students with disabilities, and students with religious/non-religious viewpoints. Before selecting a program, consider how your identities may impact your experience abroad in unique ways and talk with your Program Coordinator about any program-specific concerns. Students with documented disabilities should discuss any accommodation needs with their Program Coordinator early in the planning process.

Check our Identity Abroad page and resources listed below for information specific to you and other students who may be on your program.

Open to undergraduate students from any accredited U.S. college or university. Minimum 2.5 GPA required (exceptions considered after submission of a petition).

Dr. Kyle Camarda
Associate Professor, Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering
University of Kansas.