Engaging in future scientists

Engaging in future scientists

​How do we get future natural scientists? By raising the interest of elementary school children! Maria Matson Dzebo, postdoc at Biology and Biological Engineering, believes this to be true and has engaged herself in the competition Teknikåttan.
​This year’s regional finals in Teknikåttan recently took place at Chalmers. In the event, students from the eighth grade in elementary school competed for a spot at the national final in Linköping in May (read more here (only in Swedish)!

One of the researchers who has dedicated their time and engagement in the competition is Maria Matson Dzebo.

“It all started when I was at a conference this fall, and found out that Chalmers lacked a representative in Teknikåttan. I contacted the project manager and asked if I could be of assistance,” she says.
"I think it’s important that Chalmers commit to make sure we’ll have future natural scientists. It is also part of what we as researchers are supposed to do; educate and disseminate knowledge, to students and towards the public.”

Maria Matson Dzebo has been working in projects involving younger elementary school children earlier. The sooner, the better, she argues. Later, there’s a risk that natural sciences are seen as boring and difficult. But why is that?

“I think it’s contagious. If you, as a parent, found natural sciences difficult, you might send that signal to your children… And then it spreads from child to child. When you’re a kid, you want to act the same way and like the same things as everybody else.”

Targeting the eighth grade is absolutely right, she says. There is still some time left before the students have to make a choice for upper secondary school, but they have landed after getting their first grades two years earlier. They also have all the subjects of natural sciences on the schedule.

Maria Matson Dzebo has been involved in the scientific group, where the competition’s questions are designed. Some contest elements are also purely technical; they’ve been tested in her kitchen to see what works. She has also served as a referee and may do so again in the national finals. If she gets the chance, she would like to be involved again next year.

And what about the region finals?

“The kids were nervous but seemed more relaxed after a while. They looked happy and like they were having fun. And the teachers gave some very positive feedback afterwards. I think the competition is important to them too; the students complete two of the tasks in school, before the competition. This year they constructed a ball thrower and a code where they could communicate with each other using flags only.”

The competition took place at the conference hall Runan at Chalmers. This is also important, says Maria Matson Dzebo:

“We want to show off our campus, show that Chalmers is not just a black hole that you pass when you’re in the neighborhood. And we want to show that we as researchers are quite ordinary people who think this is exciting; we want them to know that anyone can become a scientist.”

Text: Mia Malmstedt
Photo: Martina Butorac

Published: Thu 26 Apr 2018.