Where technology inspires the girls

New workshops for girls at the science center experimenta in Heilbronn

Girls are excited about the natural sciences and the Girls Day workshops are scheduled to take place in the Science Center experimenta in Heilbronn. © experimenta gGmbH
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Sometimes without boys: with the Girls 'Day Academy and the Girls' Day College, the Experimenta Science Center in Heilbronn specifically promotes girls in science and technology. As part of the two programs, the participants experiment regularly during the school year in the laboratories of the experimenta, learn soft skills and visit companies. "In this way, they can develop their personal and professional potential - and this ultimately benefits the economy, too, " says the head of experimenta at Thomas Wendt.

Since April 2019 it says in Heilbronn again: Join in and try it out! After two years of expansion, the experimenta has become the largest science center in Germany. Visitors can now playfully experience and literally understand science and technology in more than 275 interactive exhibits. In addition, diverse shows in the Science Dome provide wow effects, and an observatory opens up the universe. Since its opening in 2009, however, the Science Center on the Neckar has yet another highlight that has been generously expanded in the course of the expansion: Groups can experiment under guidance - now there are nine modern laboratories available.

Mainly school classes use the laboratory world - the course offer of the experimenta is extremely colorful: It covers many topics from the field of so-called MINT subjects - mathematics, computer science, natural sciences and technology. Specifically, the courses include solar mobiles, genetic fingerprints, nanoparticles or computer programs.

As part of the Girls 'Day Academy and the Girls' Day College it says: Only the girls are off! In contrast to mixed groups, in these formats they are better able to develop their interest and talent for the STEM subjects, according to one aspect of the concept. Ultimately, however, it should be counteracted by the fact that young women are still relatively rarely taking science and technology professions, which are currently in high demand on the labor market.

Young, female and technically interested

"At the Girls' Day Academy, interested students from grades 7 to 9 meet once a week for lessons at various events, " explains Wendt. For girls over the age of 10, the experimenta has also developed a further format: Girls' Day College. The girls individually choose specific courses for which they receive credit points. If you have collected enough, you will receive a diploma at the end. display

"The concepts have evolved from the Girls' Day, which has been taking place nationwide in April for many years and offers girls insight into technical and scientific professions and companies in this field, " says Wendt. In Baden-Wuerttemberg, the idea was born to extend this one-day event by a weekly program: with the support of the employers 'association S dwestmetall, the Girls' Day Academy has developed, now by now also offered nationwide. In many places, the cooperation of educational institutions, companies and financial supporters enables technology-interested female students to participate in the programs.

"However, the practical events within the framework of the Girls' Day Academies often take place at schools or institutions that only have modest equipment. In the experimenta laboratories, on the other hand, even more demanding projects can be carried out, "says Wendt. In addition, at the Science Center two employees are dedicated to this offer, serve as a role model and take care of individual girls. Despite this effort, participating in the offer of experimenta is free of charge - the financial support of the Agentur für Arbeit Heilbronn and the Dieter Schwarz Foundation makes this possible.

Experiments, workshops and company visits

"The offer is communicated to the integrated schools by contact teachers. The participating girls then commit to appearing regularly at the events, "explains Wendt. Specifically, the 30-part program includes hands-on workshops in Experimenta laboratories, where research is conducted, researched and built. In addition, there are courses that promote soft skills these events are about presentation techniques, teamwork or communication strategies.

The third pillar of the concept is a career orientation excursion: to get to know different fields of work and industries, the girls' groups visit companies that are located near the respective school. These include companies from the automotive, chemical, energy and mechanical engineering sectors. "Many companies are very interested in participating, " says Wendt. "It is becoming apparent that some of them urgently need new blood for their employees in the technical field. That is why they support projects that mobilize the potential of young women and possibly familiarize them with their own business at the same time. "

Time without boys

From a pedagogical point of view, special formats for girls are also useful for practical projects in the field of technology, says Wendt: "In mixed courses, it often becomes clear that there is a tendency towards different behavior and approaches: M Youngsters often approach technical issues more cautiously and planned - boys, on the other hand, often simply go crazy. Both strategies can be successful, but in combination they can be detrimental to the girls. Because the boys are pushing through their behavior in mixed groups tends to come to the fore. That's why sex-separated offers can make sense, "explains Wendt.

In the last school year, the participants of the Girls 'Day Academy and Girls' Day College were able for the first time to use the possibilities of the freshly developed experimenta. The final highlight was a party before the start of the summer holidays: in front of about 200 invited guests, the 60 girls were given ceremonial certificates and diplomas. As part of the event, groups of female Girls' Day Academy participants also presented their "Incredible Machines": the challenge was to use the acquired know-how to solve a tricky transport task.

A ball transport machine to the conclusion

"The Incredible Machines were supposed to move a table tennis ball from one table to another one meter away, " says Wendt. It was fun to see which clever solutions the girls developed. "Many used a hair dryer as the key element of their ball-transport machine. And even with negative pressure was worked - this was a vacuum cleaner used, "says Wendt.

Now it's off to the next round: In the new school year Girls Power is announced again at the experimenta and some of the previous participants are also continuing the program. "Maybe some of our girls will develop into particularly successful role models: It would be nice to see one or the other successfully participate in Jugend forscht or finally develop a scientific career, " says Wendt.

Source: experimenta

- Nadja Podbregar