For 12 months, the participants of the pilot year of the “School for Talents” have been working towards this day. The bachelor’s and master’s students from different study programs at the University of Stuttgart identified target groups, conducted interviews, made prototypes, and developed their concepts from a rough idea into compelling pitches.
The students were given a maximum of seven minutes to present their respective projects. The theme “Reimagining Space – New Utopias” was interpreted creatively – and sometimes surprisingly – by all teams. From “Learning Space” and “Intermedial Space” to “Science Communication Space” and “Participation Space”, a wide range of ideas was covered. The students also dealt with the topics of sustainability and “Consumption Space”.
An overview of the project ideas
Anna is a new student at the University of Stuttgart. Her classes take place online. But unfortunately, her Internet connection is unstable. Because of the Coronavirus pandemic, she has not been able to get to know the campus and therefore cannot find a learning workplace. Many students have had problems similar to Anna’s in recent semesters. But the students of the “Learning Space” team want to change this. With the “Re-Imagining Learning Space” project, they aim to support students by developing solutions that will improve their learning experience.
The group designed an internal app that structures and defines various learning situations and their different needs. Although a booking system for learning workplaces has already been introduced at the University of Stuttgart, some students use the workplaces without registering or do not use them despite having made a reservation. With the help of the app, the students want to improve the booking and cancellation of workplaces. The app will also facilitate registration and include tours of the campus.
How can society participate in the design of public spaces? In order to inform the public and spur them to action, the “Public Space” team developed the “Participizer”. The “Participizer” is an electronic device, the prototype of which is the size of a shoe box. It presents information via a screen and lets interested people share their thoughts and opinions anonymously and easily.
The device is accessible to everyone and can be used in different languages. The “Participizer” can be placed wherever a special project is to be carried out. For example, if the municipality plans to remodel a park or create new parking spaces. People who visit, work, live, or relax there can thus participate in the projects.
Many people are aware of the local and global impacts of climate change. However, there is often a lack of mechanisms to motivate society to do something about it. The “Intermedial Space” team wants to use poetry as a tool to take action against the impending climate change. Literature opens up a space where people can take different perspectives. In this way, even people who have not yet experienced climate change can identify with it.
In order to communicate the topic in a simple yet effective manner, students came up with a poetic form that is easy to understand and reproduce. With five to seven words per line, the formal requirements are minimal. In terms of content, the poem should revisit the problem, present the perspective of the writer, and provide an outlook or solution. Using a QR code, interested parties can post their own poem on the group’s website.
Bags, bottles, packaging: Each person in Germany produces about 3 kg of plastic waste per month. Global plastic production and consumption have grown rapidly in recent decades. The consequences are dying marine animals, microplastics in our food, and a huge patch of garbage in the Pacific. This information is not new. “But why are we doing so little about it?” asked students in the “Consumption Space” team.
As a solution, some of the group came up with a sustainability challenge in order to modify behavior. Participants can use a “plastic diary” to record their individual consumption over one week. At the end of the week, the challenge will be evaluated, and the best “plastic savers” will be awarded. With the campaign, the team aims to prepare the students and employees of the University of Stuttgart for a sustainable and climate-neutral everyday life and motivate them to try out solid soap, visit a second-hand store, or cook a plastic-free meal.
The second part of the group has set up a sharing platform for Erasmus students. The platform offers students the opportunity to exchange items such as cooking utensils and thus reduce consumption and unnecessary waste. The first phase of the project is specifically designed for Erasmus and exchange students. The group offers departing students the opportunity to drop off items they cannot take home. These items are passed on to new arrivals, thereby creating a closed cycle. The project started with a test phase in winter semester 2021/22 and aims to establish itself permanently in the following semesters. For example, with a free store at the University of Stuttgart.
Science Communication Space
The “Communication Space” team has investigated how researchers at the University of Stuttgart communicate their results and what new projects can be initiated. Publications and conferences are the main form of communication between scientists. However, these formats are difficult to access for those who are not part of the research community. The University of Stuttgart therefore has other ways of presenting research to the general public. These include the research magazine “forschung leben”, various online formats such as the podcast “Made in Science”, or “Science Day”, when the university invites the public to an open house on campus.
But the students want to promote science communication even more. They have therefore teamed up with Cyber Valley to develop a key competency for students at the University of Stuttgart on the topic of science engagement in AI. They were also given the opportunity to support a science communication project themselves for the 2022 Stuttgart Science Festival.
“The ‘School for Talents’ program is for curious, academically strong students,” said Lisa Kohler, who directs the School for Talents. “The focus of the program is to build interdisciplinary skills.” As she explains, the interdisciplinary nature of the program, which emphasizes applied and self-directed learning, was a valuable experience for participants who are used to a rigorous curriculum from their own study programs.
The work of the six “School for Talents” project groups can be found on the project website.