Scientific Congress for Kids another STEM Initiative at ISU

When prof. Jean-Jacques Favier joined ISU, he expressed the wish to extend this concept of a scientific congress for kids, originating from the Cite de l’Espace in Toulouse eight years ago to other cities in France, especially Strasbourg. His gamble paid off!

Over 160 kids aged 9-10 attended their first scientific congress led by the Jardin des Sciences of University of Strasbourg at the International Space University (ISU). They gave very well-thought presentations themselves about specific space topics, like propulsion, spacesuits, the lack of convection on board of ISS, sleeping in space etc. It was remarkable how well they were prepared and were able to give good answers to the questions posed to them by the ISU space experts, who were very impressed.
The day started just like at an IAC (International Astronautical Congress) or any high level conference, with the distribution of badges and conference bags. Then several dignitaries and politicians addressed the children in short and adapted speeches. N. Matt, vice-president for higher education of the Eurometropolis of Strasbourg and himself an educator, reminded his young audience, that they have something that a lot of adults don’t have anymore, ie being curious. Allowing therefore to discover new things.

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Once the plenary session was over, the kid-delegates split in three groups. Two groups gave oral presentations and one explained the poster that they had designed. With a French astronaut, Thomas Pesquet currently onboard the International Space Station, the theme for this year’s congress was easy – living in space. 

Christelle Spettel in charge of scientific projects at Jardin des Science/Unistra said: “The objectives of this exercise are to make the children stakeholders in a scientific project. And to teach them a useful skill which is to present and defend verbally, their work.” It is also the responsibility of the Academy of Strasbourg to provide teachers with such STEM projects.
Kids carried out some research over the last five months and therefore prepared powerpoint presentations and posters with the help of their teachers and three PhD students. One of the participants commented: “It was difficult at first. We did a lot of research on internet. We then checked the data and selected what we needed for our topic (Communicating with ISS). We then rephrased the information with our words and finally practiced the oral presentation.” Another young delegate said: “Taking part in this congress boosted my self-esteem and helped me gain confidence.”

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Before the start of the visio-conference, Philippe Geiss a world renowned saxophonist provided the kids with a short introduction to playing the saxophone, just like astronaut Thomas Pesquet. It was now time to interact with the other three sites who took part in this adventure. Nicolas Moncussi, ISU’s IT and AV connected the packed Cosmos auditorium with the other three sites and their respective astronauts. Children from one site had the possibility to ask questions to astronauts located at the other sites. 

From the smile on the teachers’ faces and excitement from children when leaving the Innovation Parc, all at ISU can be reassured that this day generated a few vocations in sciences and a lot of interest in space.
This way ISU wanted also to contribute to the growing STEM problem. Indeed, the number of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics undergraduate students is at best constant in most Western countries and even declining in certain countries. This is a real long-term threat for the Western industry and even economy. Inspiring young children with space examples can considerably contribute to remedy this trend in the near future.

The event drew a lot of press attention as you can see from this document!

Memories of the scientific congress for kids at ISU can be found HERE.