Fraunhofer MINT-EC Math Talents Programme
This summer 23 students will be invited to attend the closing workshop of the Fraunhofer MINT-EC Math Talents programme in Trippstadt, Germany. MINT is the German for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). The MINT-EC is a network of schools in Germany with a focus on STEM.
During the week-long residential workshop, the final of a series of six workshops in total taking place every half a year, the school pupils will finish off their modelling projects, on which they have been working
for 2.5 years.
This unique programme is run by KOMMS, the Competence Centre for Mathematical Modelling in STEM-Projects in Schools, part of the Department of Mathematics at the University of Kaiserslautern in Germany and is the second of its type with the first programme running from 2011 to 2013. Its aim is to support highly talented students in mathematics and the other STEM subjects from the whole of Germany, giving them the opportunity to work on a highly complex, interdisciplinary and open-ended scientific problem with the support of experts.
The 23 pupils, in school years 9 and 10 in 2014, were selected to take part in the programme after a rigorous selection process and assessment centre. The format of each workshop is similar; the students arrive and work industriously on their projects over the week, with one or two seminars on an interesting mathematical or technological theme being given by an expert, and an expedition one afternoon. The pupils get so involved in their projects, which they also work on in-between the workshops using digital media, that we often have to remind them to eat, sleep and take other breaks!
Over the course of the workshops the pupils have worked in four separate teams on the following projects:
- drones: to extend an ordinary drone to fly autonomously;
- bicycle: to modify an E-Bike to allow for slope-independent training;
- rover: to construct a rover capable of autonomous movement in unknown terrain;
- billiards: the detection and identification of balls on a billiard table and suggestions for the next move.
Each of the project goals were conceived by the students themselves, initially only being given a vague idea of a subject area in which they could work on. The quality and complexity of what the students have achieved has been truly amazing. We are all looking forward to the final workshop to see the finished results.
A short questionnaire, completed by the students at the end of 2015, showed the hugely positive effect of the programme. All of the pupils said they greatly enjoyed or loved the programme (also evidenced by the fact that it is completely voluntary), 68% of the pupils had found that the programme had (positively) changed their opinion of mathematics, and 95% of the pupils believe that mathematics will likely or definitely be important for their future job. Furthermore, almost all the pupils are planning on studying a STEM subject (or medicine) during higher education and a significant number are considering mathematics as an option.
We are currently looking for funding to begin another round of the programme beginning in 2017. In this programme we will also perform empirical didactical research, with the aim of demonstrating the positive impact of such a programme on the students’ understanding and inclination for the mathematical sciences.
If you would like further information about the programme, please contact Dr Martin Bracke (firstname.lastname@example.org).
(Photos and pictures courtesy of Fraunhofer ITWM and KOMMS)