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Young people interested in technology from 16 nations experience an exciting International Summer Camp at Jacobs University

Jacobs VDI Summer Camp 2016
August 5, 2016
They have examined electronic components and bee wings under a microscope, analyzed water samples, built solar cells, and sent hot air balloons aloft. For 96 students from 16 nations, the week was an exciting and rich experience. All of them took part in the International Summer Camp of the VDI (Association of German Engineers) at Jacobs University. The goal of the Summer Camp: to generate enthusiasm for the technical professions among young people and to sharpen their perspective for global interrelationships. A look back.
What has been the high point of the Summer Camp so far? Njomza from Macedonia and Aurelia from Dusseldorf don’t have to think about this question very long. “The coolest thing was the underwater robot,” says Njomza, while Aurelia zips around on her smartphone and opens a picture of the robot as proof. “I think he looks a little like Wall-E from the Disney film,” she says and grins. 
The underwater robot can help researchers in complex research projects in the ocean, for example when trying to discover archeological finds at the bottom of the sea. For Njomza and Aurelia, however, the first order of business is to take water samples at the duck pond. They carefully fill small containers with water and use modern measuring devices to determine which organisms they contain and how high the pH value is. 
“The composition of the water depends on a lot of different influences,” explains Andrea Koschinsky, Professor of Geosciences at Jacobs University. “For instance the weather, the landscape, the ambient temperature, and of course also the pollution caused by people.” Clean water, she believes, will be a more valuable resource in the 21st century, because it will be increasingly scarce.
VDI Summer Camp 2016


Njomza can identify well with statements like that. Her homeland of Macedonia is one of the countries expected to suffer from an extreme water shortage in a few years. “I think it is important for us to become aware of this problem and look for solutions together,” says the 17-year-old, who wants to study chemistry later on. That Jacobs University could be an exciting place to do so is something she’s already noticed over the past few days. Pier from Italy also speaks well of the Jacobs University campus – and his workshop, which deals with DVDs, smartphones, and quantum mechanics: “Here I have gotten a feel for what I can do and what I really enjoy. That is a big help to me in deciding what I want to do after I graduate.”

Getting young people excited about studying in the so-called MINT areas – mathematics, informatics, natural science, and technology –  is a central purpose of the Summer Camp, which the VDI has been holding for its Future Pilots Youth Club for the past three years. This year Europe’s largest technical-scientific association has joined forces for the first times with Jacobs University, which held its own international summer camps for students in previous years. 


VDI Summer Camp 2016
At this year’s camp, nearly half the participants are not from Germany. The young people traveled here from numerous European countries, but also from the USA, Venezuela, Pakistan, Japan, China, Taiwan, and the Philippines. The fact that all the workshops are in English seems to be “easy” for most of the participants, who range in age from 13 to 18. And they don’t lose their cool, when they occasionally have trouble finding the right word. “The Summer Camp is not a required course,” says co-organizer Dr. Freia Hardt of Jacobs University. “The young people who come here want to learn something and to contribute their own ideas. This creates a completely open, wonderful atmosphere.” Njomza and Aurelia can confirm that. “You very quickly get into conversations with everyone and find new friends.”
The Workshop program is very versatile. Some of the participants use high-precision microscopes to examine bee wings and electrical components, giving them their first insights into the tiny world of nanotechnology. Others work together to develop board games in which the players can learn more about the home countries of the other workshop participants. From a view of the tiniest structures it is thus no long journey to topics like international understanding and global challenges, such as water shortages. The program is rounded out by visits to companies such as the aerospace company OHB or the Lürssen Shipyard, or research institutions such as the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Center for Applied Aerospace Technology and Microgravitation. 
During the Summer Camp, the participants learn not only get from their professors, but also from one another. How great their interest is in doing so was noticed by Camp Director Fritz Neußer of VDI on the very first evening. “We actually wanted to just do a little wrap-up with the students. But the discussion quickly came around to problems in the home countries of some of the students – and suddenly there was a very exciting, long discussion of possible solutions. It was impressive.” And, it fit very well with the motto used by VDI to recruit for its Future Pilots Club: “Isn’t there a better way?”