It was the national cluster Microwave Road that, in collaboration with Chalmers and the companies Bluetest, Ericsson and Qamcom, invited young people to a day in the world of microwaves. The idea came from Robert Rehammar (to the left), CTO at Bluetest, and he also welcomed the students to the introduction in the lecture hall Kollektorn.
"In Gothenburg we are very good at microwaves. One might say that we are one of the four best places in the world in the area", he said.
Microwave Road connects a number of companies and institutions in the region with microwave technology as a common denominator. It is an area of strong growth and with a great need for competent workforce.
"By showing you some of all the cool things that can be done with microwaves, we want to try to get you interested", Robert Rehammar said.
With him in Kollektorn were Hans Hjelmgren, associate professor of microwave technology and program manager for the MSc program in electrical engineering at Chalmers, Jonas Flygare, doctoral student at Onsala Space Observatory, Magnus Rissvik, Alessandro Cartabellotta and Yuki Kubota, all three from Ericsson, and Edit Helgee, Qamcom.
Microwave technology is available in considerably more contexts than the classic radar motifs with flashing dots seen in action films, and rotating objects on top of the passenger ferries' navigation bridges. In fact, microwaves are used everywhere today, but we may not think about it. The 125 eighth graders learned more about all this in short presentations and exercises.
Makes traffic safer
Edit Heelge (to the right) from Qamcom works with radar systems for cars:
"We are investigating how radar measures distance, speed and direction and how to use it to make traffic safer", she told.
In his job as a doctoral student at Onsala Space Observatory, Jonas Flygare uses microwaves and radio telescopes.
"It's another way of looking at space. With microwave antennas as a telescope, we capture signals from stars very far from here", he explained.
Magnus Rissvik talked about how Ericsson develops and sharpens the connected society in different ways. Among other things, they have a project in collaboration with SMHI that makes it possible to visualize rainfall for the benefit of farmers and others.
"Microwaves are affected by moisture and rain. With the help of radio links we can measure how much it has been raining locally, and see exactly where it rained and how much. Farmers can find out if it has rained on their land or if they may need to water it", Magnus Rissvik told us.
Huge labour market
Hans Hjelmgren stroke a blow to start studying electrical engineering at Chalmers:
"There is a lot going on in electrical engineering, now and in the next few years. The labour market is huge. It is about the connected society where we talk to each other, use mobile phones and have started talking to cars, which in turn speak to the traffic lights. Different things are connected to each other. All this communication is done with microwaves", said Hans Hjelmgren.
"It can be difficult to study at Chalmers, but it is also very fun. There is a lot of fun that one can engage in beside the studies; air-balloon, ice hockey, cortège, spex and much more."
Hans Hjelmgren (to the right) spoke about several exciting areas where microwave technology is applied, for example the mobile stroke helmet and the world-famous mind-controlled arm protease developed by Chalmers researcher Max Ortiz Catalan:
"It is so sensitive that you can pick up an egg with it", he said.
In electrical engineering, you work a lot with electric vehicles and renewable electricity. Hans Hjelmgren took the opportunity to mention the self-driving bus that can be tested in Chalmers both campuses during test periods.
"So far, the bus goes quite slowly, but it runs around Chalmers completely on its own. We want the electricity for electric cars to come from renewable sources. At Chalmers we work with wind power and solar power", he said.
Most of the event took place at four different stations that the students had to circulate between. Among other things, a drone appeared, the youngsters did a minor space observation and tested their mobile phones' performance in a mini-competition. The whole thing was very much appreciated and the young people asked many curious questions.
"They got to test their mobile phones, see how radars are used for self-driving cars, and how microwaves are used to understand the universe", says Hans Hjelmgren.
The event combined physics, technology and mathematics in an exciting way, and was included as part of The International Science Festival's ongoing school program.
Hans Hjelmgren was very happy with the day:
"Everything worked according to plan. We invited schoolchildren to explore the exciting world of microwaves. Hopefully some of them will appear at Chalmers in the future", he says.
Text and photo: Michael Nystås