Girls become familiar with photonics and are strengthened for MINT

Over the last two years, more than two thousand girls and young women have gained a lot of knowledge about the world of photonics as part of the European project PHABLABS 4.0. The goal was to strengthen the presence of young women in science. At the end of the project, some instruments are available for later use.

According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), women are represented on average by only 30% of scientists worldwide and are therefore underrepresented. Thanks to a creative approach to photonics, the Phablabs 4.0 project partners have given the impetus to counter this trend. The interest, especially among young women, was sparked to inspire them for MINT topics and career opportunities were shown.

The project was represented in ten European countries, which enabled 1,221 girls to participate in one of the Phablabs 4.0 events last year. A total of 33 workshops and 11 specially developed Photonik Challenger projects have been completed.

The combination of "Fab Labs" (abbreviation for "Manufacturing Laboratories") and Photonik has provided a variety of opportunities to creatively engage in photonics and digital production technologies for the future. Workshops and challenger projects. A look at career opportunities in the fields of photonics, engineering, programming and robotics has been opened.

Put into practice
During the workshops, the participants were confronted with various tasks, for example: they must create a work of art from lasers, change a stuffed toy with photonics or build an infrared glove as a remote control and can be controlled to the touch.

The more advanced Challenger projects included the construction of an invisible coat or holograms. The students were very happy to be able to put into practice so many different technologies that would have been difficult to access in another context.

"Phablabs 4.0 is exciting and interesting.We have learned a lot of new things that we do not discuss at school.The fact that I've had a glimpse of a concrete professional field and that I'm I have also met the person who is practicing it has given me many ideas for my own career planning.I would really like to work in the field of photonics, "said a young participant from the Phablabs 4.0 Challenger project.

Neutral materials
As part of the development of the workshops, instructions and implementation, FabLabs and its photonic partners have followed a gender-sensitive approach, which is explained in more detail in the manual "A Balanced Gender Approach". The project partners, with the professional support of Prof. Averil MacDonald of the WISE Initiative (Women in Science and Engineering), pass on their experience and recommendations to Fab Labs, schools or other institutions to engage more girls in the field of STEM.

Instructions for all workshops developed in the project, including Challenger kits and projects, are available for free online. Thus, even after the end of the project, key photonics technology can continue to be creatively known by children and adolescents.

Steinbeis 2i GmbH and Fablab Karlsruhe e.V., both project partners, developed and tested photonics workshops and Challenger projects during this two-year project. Similarly, eleven scientific partners in photonics, 14 fablabs and a gender action team were involved.

More information on:

scientific contact:
Melanie Ungemach, Steinbeis 2i GmbH

idw 2019/07