An interview with Horst Scheu, Steinbeis Entrepreneur at the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Science Technology Education
Science, technology, education – topics that have defined the career of Horst Scheu, not only as a lecturer in physics education at the University of Constance, but also as principal at the Friedrich Wöhler High School in Singen – and as a Steinbeis Entrepreneur. Scheu spoke to TRANSFER about the importance of these topics for business and for society in general.
Hello Mr. Scheu. Your Steinbeis Enterprise focuses on the natural sciences, technology, and education. Why is the interface between these topics so important to you?
I believe that a scientific and technical understanding is essential these days, especially for non-technical professions and decision-makers such as politicians, attorneys, and public administrators. It must be of central interest to society to provide a broad-based, fundamental education in this area. This concept has been with me and motivated me all my professional life.
The idea of founding a Steinbeis Enterprise with this focus arose during work on Science and Technology as a new Abitur subject – or secondary education qualification – which is now established in high schools in Baden-Wuerttemberg. The goal was to create a curriculum subject that’s interdisciplinary and focuses on actual practice and action, that students majoring in the natural sciences could choose if they’re interested in science and technology.
We formed a working group at the Ministry of Culture in collaboration with experimental schools, universities, and industrial enterprises to identify classroom topics that were both comprehensible and motivating for young people. To do this, we toured companies, sometimes spending several days at a time with engineers, and learned about development and production methods, always with a view to transferring them to the classroom. Based on this process, many extremely fruitful educational partnerships developed during my later time at Friedrich Wöhler High School in Singen. We realized that businesses have a strong interest in showcasing their work, but often lack the resources or access to young people to make things happen. And thus the idea was born of technology transfer in the opposite direction – from companies into educational institutions.
What offers do you intend to use to interest children and young people in nature and technology, and what role does business play in this?
At this point it’s worth mentioning the recently founded student research center in Singen I’m involved in. Our offerings are aimed at all age groups, starting with elementary school, and initially we’re intending to run events that can be attended in groups. For example, there’s Calliope Mini, a miniature computer that introduces elementary school children to the world of programming in a fun manner, or Mobility of the Future for young people aged 16 and over in partnership with the Ferdinand Steinbeis Institute of the Steinbeis Foundation. The courses are an opportunity for our young guests to get to know the research center and find out more about our offer to conduct their own experiments for free, or do research under the supervision of experienced instructors and students.
The Singen student research center is supported by a powerful network of universities, the City of Singen, and the County of Constance, as well as a whole variety of leading industrial enterprise, whose task is also to input with ideas and provide support with the topics.
New technologies, digitalization, demographic change, globalization – these are just some of the drivers of change in the world of work and the evolving demands facing the future workforce. What can schools do to prepare children and young people for this?
All of those topics found their way into the curriculum and school lessons some time ago. But if they’re only dealt with in the classroom, they’ll only circulate on a relatively abstract level and they’ll be looked at less in concrete terms.So the aim should be to bring young people directly into contact with as many professions as possible. Unfortunately, however, they’re usually only exposed to the working reality of their teachers or, if at all, their parents.
For young people at all types of schools, vocational orientation and opening up companies to students – for example by organizing education partnerships, but also internships, or vacation jobs – is an important prerequisite of carefully considered career decisions, and incidentally this offers important benefits to local companies looking for qualified workers. Some firms also organize days for parents to invite their children to work, and the members of service clubs visit schools to present their professions. These are all important building blocks.
People continually maintain that Gen Z has little interest in technical or scientific professions. Do you also believe that’s the case? And what can be done to counteract this?
Those are always generalizations, and they’re rarely helpful. But it’s true: Unlike my generation, you can’t simply inspire young people with technology to encourage them to come out of the woodwork. It’s important to think about the meaning or benefit of certain technologies, and answers are needed from a societal perspective.
Also, people’s individual training and career paths are very different and they rarely go in a straight line. Young people deserve respect for their goals – and open doors. For education, this means there needs to be a high level of absorption between the different education pathways, and plenty of options for sideway entry or re-entry.
Something I’d particularly like to emphasize is the possibility of gaining vocational qualifications in order to study, which unfortunately is only common practice in some federal states. People who follow this path bring valuable professional experience to their degrees, and they know exactly where they want to go.
AT A GLANCE: THE STUDENT RESEARCH CENTER IN SINGEN
The focus at the Student Research Center in Singen, Baden-Wuerttemberg, lies in what are called the MINT subjects in Germany: math, IT, the natural sciences, and technology.
Students interested in MINT topics from the 3rd grade and upward are offered the opportunity to conduct experiments or attend lectures, workshops, and courses. They are also supervised by dedicated instructors and students from partner universities.
In 2019, the Student Research Center entered its model in a concept competition organized by the Joachim Herz Foundation and the foundation behind the youth research initiative Jugend Forscht, winning a prize worth €15,000.
The Student Research Center is open to children and young people attending all kinds of schools. It recently moved into premises at the former Tittisbühl elementary school in Singen.
The Student Reseach Center was founded following successful collaboration between three secondary schools in Singen, the City of Singen, and regional marketing agency Singen aktiv. In 2021, the center was recognized as an Extracurricular Research Center (AFZ) by the Baden-Wuerttemberg Ministry of Culture, Youth, and Sports.
The work of the Student Research Center is funded by a support association comprising more than 40 founding members from the world of politics, business, and education, and the association is open to new members.
Further information: https://sfz-singen.de/
Horst Scheu (interviewee)
Science Technology Education (Constance)
Support Association, Schülerforschungszentrums Singen (Singen)