Improving STEM Education at the Helmholtz Think Tank

University 1951
Photo: by Chris Curry on Unsplash

"Dusty" physics, "complicated" biology or chemistry - school teaching must become more attractive, according to the demands of many parents and politicians. That's why the University of Potsdam wants to establish a "Helmholtz Think Tank" to mark the 200th birthday of the ingenius scientist.

In the think tank, the best 20 students from various STEM subjects will work together for at least a year to make science education more exciting by designing experimental skills labs and digital tasks not only for the Helmholtz PhänoMINTa, but also for the (digital) classroom. Throughout his life, Helmholtz envisioned an educational institution where the best researchers would passionately educate their students and inspire an enthusiasm for scientific work. This ideal serves as our model for the establishment of the Helmholtz think tank, whose special structure allows us to create a place where students can freely develop their scientific potential.

University 1951
Photo: by Chris Curry on Unsplash
Black Board with Formulas and Theorems of Hermann von Helmholtz
Image: ZIM

How Does the Think Tank Work?

The think tank is a new format within the Deutschlandstipendium program. It offers a flexible framework for addressing the teaching of natural sciences in the digital age from as many perspectives as possible. In the Helmholtz think tank, the classic boundaries between disciplines are dissolved. Biologists, chemists, computer scientists and physicists work together using the method of design thinking to develop miniature experiments that they can try out in in-house student labs and then evaluate together with specialist scientists. Concepts that have been tested and approved are to be integrated into teacher training and in the future - as concrete teaching materials - will be used in schools.

Black Board with Formulas and Theorems of Hermann von Helmholtz
Image: ZIM

Florian J. Schweigert, Vice President of International Affairs and Fundraising,

„We are particularly proud of our newly developed formats. The promotion and networking of excellent young researchers in thematically focused think tanks puts the emphasis on the development of all potentials.“

Support Bright Ideas and Minds

Students at the think tank go through the application process for a university scholarship before the start of their joint research year. The Potsdam University Scholarship is a merit-based grant within the framework of the Deutschlandstipendium Programme. Half of it is financed by the federal government and the other half by foundations or companies or private donors. Aim of the think tank is to promote the potential of students in STEM subjects even more in view of the of the skilled workers shortage.

For a total of 44,000 euros per year, support 20 students from different disciplines in a think tank:

  • 20 scholarships of 1,800 euros each (36,000 euros).
  • The federal government will top up your contribution by a further 36,000 euros.
  • 8,000 euros are used to design the program, e.g. BarCamp or presentation of results.

Florian J. Schweigert, Vice President of International Affairs and Fundraising,

„We are particularly proud of our newly developed formats. The promotion and networking of excellent young researchers in thematically focused think tanks puts the emphasis on the development of all potentials.“