Getting to grips with science – Girl Researchers’ Camp at Krones

In fifth grade, a teacher once advised me not to base my plans for life too much on mathematics. Writing, translating and establishing geographical causalities – those were my strengths. But when it came to formulae, graphs and calculations, then I regularly failed.

It’s improbable, I confess, that there’s a mathematical genius slumbering deep inside me, that has been closed off for ever due to my teacher’s discouraging advice, but not impossible. After all, I’ve always understood maths – it was only in the exams that my courage regularly failed me, and even more so in the orals. Exam nerves in maths? Probably. Nonetheless, I passed my school-leaving exams – ironically enough, I had the very same teacher in the sixth form. Only that he gave me more encouragement than discouragement on the final road that mathematics and I travelled together. “We’re going to get there” the teacher encouraged me regularly, but even that was no longer enough to rescue my broken relationship with mathematics.

Since my schooldays, I’ve often wondered what would have happened in fifth grade if someone had taken me by the hand and made the world of mathematics clearer to me. I had always lacked, for instance, an answer to the simple question: “And where do I need this in my everyday life?” I knew that with my Latin vocabulary I could at least translate inscriptions in churches, but what exactly was the use of geometrical calculations? For me, maths was a much “deader” language than Latin – and chemical formulae are more impenetrable than Greek to me. Especially after the teacher told me that this was “most definitely not the thing” for me.

Bildschirmfoto 2014-11-04 um 13.18.56[2]Somewhere in the Educational Institute of the Bavarian Business Community (bbw), someone must have had a similar experience to mine – that’s the only explanation I can find for the fact that now there are brilliant initiatives like the “Girl Researchers’ Camp”. Every year, schoolgirls can apply to attend the camp, and if they’re accepted, they have an opportunity to do some mentored research at Bavarian companies and universities. It’s an initiative that communicates to schoolgirls “You’re research”, instead of exclaiming: “You’re 14 and you’re just a schoolgirl!”

This year, too, Krones AG was involved, together with the East Bavarian University of Applied Science in Regensburg (OTH). For one week, the young researchers (aged between 14 and 16) went to lectures and laboratories, learned a programming language, and met female engineers. The acquisition of knowledge was packaged inside a programme featuring a rural boarding school atmosphere – the girls could stroll through the city together in the evenings, go bowling, or simply chat in the youth hostel. Their declared goal during the week of the initiative was to carry our a research program and to present the results in front of parents, mentors, the press, Krones Executive Board Member Ralf Goldbrunner and OTH President Dr. Wolfgang Baier.

If I were now to write that the goal was achieved, that would be a definite understatement. The young ladies were better presenters than some newscasters. They explained articulately how they had now managed to ensure that a bottle could be filled without coming into contact with the filling valve. They told of a week full of exciting experiences, and all of them together did not for one second give the impression that their relationships with physics or maths were in the tiniest bit constrained.

When I made my way to the canteen after the event, I was already imagining how I would be enrolling my daughter for the Researchers’ Camp in 2028. Not only because with a receptive relationship to science all doors will be open to her into interesting careers, but because it’s simply uplifting to know that some doors will not be closed off to her right from the start due to discouragement.