On March 1, 2022, school students presented their research projects at the online “Jugend forscht” competition, which this year has the theme “Zufällig genial?” (Ingenious by chance?). The science campus in Berlin’s Buch district hosted a total of 38 projects for the Berlin regional competition, which was organized and sponsored by three campus institutions: the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC), the Leibniz-Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pharmakologie (FMP) and Campus Berlin-Buch GmbH. The Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC), which is jointly run by the MDC and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, was an associate sponsor of the event.
Ten first prizes were awarded at the ceremony on March 2 in the competition sections “Jugend forscht,” for older teens aged 15 and over, and “Schüler experimentieren,” for younger students up to 14 years old. There was an additional prize for the “Best interdisciplinary project,” awarded to a project in the World of Work category. That means a total of eleven projects will now go forward to the next phase in this Germany-wide competition: the state competition hosted by Technische Universität Berlin.
Alongside the first, second and third place awards were a special Plus-MINT prize, which went to a ten-year-old schoolgirl who created a “smiley mask” that can show people’s facial expressions even when they are wearing a face covering, and the special Energy Transition prize, awarded to a team that developed a wind power facility for high-rise buildings.
Digitalized rapid testing in schools
Three teams and one individual schoolboy also qualified for a Campus Special Prize in the Physics, World of Work, and Technology categories. They will be able to spend a day in a laboratory at Berlin-Buch, gaining insight into the research performed in the respective fields.
The MDC Special Award went to a team of three students from the Humboldt-Gymnasium high school in Berlin’s Tegel district, who also won first prize in the World of Work category. During the pandemic in 2021 Faris Alagic, Lilly Persch and Konrad Vogt developed a software solution in their advanced IT course in school and during their free time that digitalized the Covid-19 rapid testing procedure at their school. An app was also created on the basis of the software, which successfully improved organization of the tests.
At the award ceremony, Kirstin Bodensiek, head of the Legal Department at MDC, said: “The know-how, imagination, entrepreneurial spirit and personal commitment that these students displayed made a real difference to their school community. I was particularly impressed by the fact that these aspiring computer scientists are still working to improve their project and simply do not give up. Their innovative solution is also beneficial for the environment, as it saves a lot of paper.”
The FMP honored Mono Bergheim, a student at the Primo-Levi-Gymnasium high school who compared various methods and aspects of macro photography. The FMP’s director Prof. Volker Haucke, had this to say about Mono’s work: “The wholeheartedness and precision with which he addressed the optical foundations of macro photography are remarkable, as are the project’s results. Making the smallest details visible is an important aspect of science, which Mono Bergheim has made excellent use of within the scope of his own possibilities.”
Rolli, the walking frame of the future
The ECRC’s director Prof. Friedemann Paul was impressed by the work of Christian Diem (13) and Ferdinand Stein (12). Their project was awarded not only the Campus Special Prize but also first prize in the Technology category. The two students from the Humboldt-Gymnasium developed a solution for a problem in the daily life of people with mobility issues. They had observed that one of their grandfathers had problems braking his walking frame and was at risk of falling over. This motivated them to develop “Rolli,” a walking frame that brakes when the user is moving too fast, thus preventing accidents. “With the tools at their disposal, including Lego bricks, and well-thought-out programming based on software targeted at school students, these two remarkable young people were able to develop a walking frame that can hopefully find a practical application in the near future,” said Prof. Paul.
The Special Prize in the Physics category of the “Schüler experimentieren” section went to Theo Suchomski, Minh-Nhat Le and Justus Stephan of the Humboldt-Gymnasium for their construction of a cloud chamber. At the award ceremony, Dr. Ulrich Scheller, managing director of Campus Berlin-Buch GmbH, had this to say about the project: “Radiation – as used in cancer treatments or as an alternative to fossil fuels – is certainly a topic that elicits controversy and debate. But in order to gain a complete picture of the issue, we must first understand what radiation is and where it comes from. Building a cloud chamber to visualize ionizing radiation is a good approach. If that can be done without using frozen carbon dioxide, which is usually needed, then that represents an excellent contribution to mitigating climate change. With the help of Theo Suchomski’s father, the young researchers – aged eleven to twelve – were able to quickly and successfully track down the physical characteristics of radiation.”
The Campus will continue to support the “Jugend forscht” competition next year – this time hopefully in person and no longer in the virtual format. “It’s important to us to foster enthusiasm for STEM subjects and scientific research in children from as young an age as possible,” says Scheller. “The ‘Jugend forscht’ competition is an important part of our science education work here at the Campus.”
Text: Christine Minkewitz, Campus Berlin-Buch
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Head of Communications
Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC)