The IdeenExpo 2022 is Europe’s largest youth event for technology and natural sciences. Under the motto “Just do it!” young people can get to know and love MINT professions. In an interview with FOCUS Online, the two science journalists, Jacob Beautemps and Ranga Yogeshwar, talk about their shows at the IdeenExpo and how Germany can better support young scientists.
FOCUS Online: Mr. Yogeshwar, Mr. Beautemps, you are the two hosts for the IdeasExpo 2022. What convinced you to take part?
Ranga Yogeshwar: I was part of the IdeasExpo right from the start and have witnessed the development up close over the years, I have to say that in advance. It is important to open young people’s eyes to the MINT area, i.e. mathematics, computer science, natural sciences and technology. It’s a pity and sends the wrong signal when talk shows still use phrases like “I thought math was terrible and I quickly voted physics off” as completely normal and greeted with applause.
Jacob Beautemps: As a student, I would have needed there to be a trade fair where I could see what career opportunities I had. That’s why I think it’s so great. And at the same time, the IdeasExpo does something that I always try to do in my YouTube videos: it imparts knowledge in a way that is fun. Some things to do locally are real attractions, there are shows and music. So I just think it’s a very good concept.
Where exactly will you be able to see you at the IdeasExpo?
Beautemps: I can be seen on the show stage every day at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. and do my show “Knowledge live” there, where I do live experiments. There’s a quiz, a yummy gift for everyone who comes along, and more.
Yogeshwar: I hosted the show “Wissen Live” for many years, but I’m also a good let-goer. Jacob does this absolutely well and believably. I now have the “Ranga Meets” format on a regular basis. There, for example, I talk to the web video producer and musician Alex Böhm. Or I meet the climate activist Luisa Neubauer and we talk about how we can achieve the energy transition.
They are both science journalists. What fascinates you about this topic?
Yogeshwar: The scientific job descriptions offer incredible creative freedom. It’s the first generation that can shape the present. It used to be that innovations spread over several generations. Today we develop technical products that will become world standards tomorrow.
The IdeasExpo offers a cornucopia of options, especially for young people, because here they can see concrete examples of how they can get involved in mechanical engineering, in the development of software or in the field of sustainable technologies. The message is: you can do it too – just do it! I confess – I am passionate about science and technology, my heart beats faster. I love this special creativity.
Beautemps: Here knowledge can be experienced and it is fun to learn something. This is so incredibly valuable.
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Let’s get more specific. Mr. Beautemps, one of the most successful YouTube videos deals with a fact check on heat pumps with more than 600,000 views. What do you attribute that to?
Beautemps: The topic is relevant to people. In fact, I made the video after feeling: “Everyone is talking about heat pumps, but no one knows what it is and more importantly, how it works”. Apparently that was really a loophole.
Everyone is also talking about the topic of “heating without gas” or generally reducing dependence on Russian gas. How do you see these things from a scientific point of view? Can we replace gas with other energy sources?
Yogeshwar: We use gas in a lot of industrial processes and it’s not that easy to convert. And with gas-fired power plants, we can compensate for fluctuations in electricity generation relatively easily. This is not the case with nuclear energy, so it is not an alternative. A manager in the energy industry explained to me that we can compensate for about a third of the gas outages in the short term. The rest is a big question mark.
Beautemps: Definitely, there are also corresponding studies. Ultimately, there are two problems: 1. It won’t be quite as easy to leave our current path. It will take very good communication to explain why certain things are necessary. And 2.: It doesn’t happen overnight. This is difficult because it is often pretended that it could be implemented very easily and quickly. But again, a lot will depend on the right communication.
Germany is known to be a high-wage country. Are we doing enough to give “Made in Germany” a new shine and to strengthen MINT professions?
Yogeshwar: From my point of view, the problem is that we are too full. The desire for the new is missing. MINT must also not smell like a school subject. At the past Ideas Expos, I have repeatedly experienced the enthusiasm of the young people. According to the motto: I hated it at school, but then realized it was exciting.
Beautemps: At least I think that the reputation of MINT professions has improved significantly and many clichés have been discarded. But especially during the pandemic, I found it frightening how natural sciences were being neglected in many schools. You often didn’t even know how to digitally translate the teaching units, which are otherwise enriched with experiments. In my view, there should have been more support for the schools.
What must Germany as a state and the companies in the country do to promote young scientists?
Yogeshwar: The state must create the structures for this. We once had an “Anyone Can Code” initiative, that’s important. Today there is software in every machine, but we lack engineers front and back who can operate it. Computer science in school is extremely important. And let’s take Corona, which made it clear: There is not a single relevant European app for digitization. Microsoft Teams or Zoom, they come from the USA or China.
Beautemps: I think that we have to reach people with the topic who otherwise have little contact with STEM, for example because it is not an issue at home. I keep getting messages from students saying they discovered their interest in technology and science through the YouTube videos. But videos alone are not enough. You have to reach the young people, especially at school, and kindle the fire there.
You can find more information about the MINT youth event here: www.ideenexpo.de
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