Organized by ICSE at the University of Education in Freiburg, Germany.
For this summer school we have combined two currently very modern and inviting topics to pupils: 3D printing and escape room design. In the last couple of years 3D printing has developed its technologies to the next level and is offering various applications that were not thinkable earlier in the day. There are companies that are producing prosthetic limbs & body parts, art objects, even homes and foods with the help of 3D printing. It has also emerged as a wonderful tool in STEM education.
Without much prior knowledge, learners can apply their theoretical STE(A)M-knowledge and solve real-world problems. 3D printing is both a very simple and a very complex technology. Nowadays, the use of a 3D printer does not involve high costs or a very long training period anymore but a target-oriented application requires the user to have an interdisciplinary understanding of the technology used.
Also, in the entertainment sector, actual escape rooms or online, escape games and action events are gaining on popularity. Having to solve challenging riddles embedded in an exciting story, alone or in a group, really offers an entertaining experience and is currently a beloved activity.
Bringing these two aspects together and making the girls work creatively themselves while learning so much about the STEM subjects and their real-life applications, proved to be a great way to inspire girls to involve them in the STEM activities.
In the summer school “Can you escape” that took place twice, 41 girls took part. It was organized on the premises of the University of Education Freiburg in Germany and took place in the computer room and 3D printing room.
First of all, the participants gained an overview of the diverse possibilities of creating an escape room: online, 3D printed, even a carpented one old-fashion style from wood and metal locks. Girls were divided in small teams of 3-4 participants and tested each of the boxes. Enthusiastically they worked their way through one riddle after the other, being taken along exciting journey of solving one big problem together with their teammates.
This made the elementary interest in the subject to inflame into a real stand-by eagerness to develop one entirely by themselves. During the 5 days of summer school, the female mentors of the summer school provided the all-round knowledge necessary for planning, designing and printing 3-D escape rooms and demonstrated the gained knowledge immediately by developing their own product.
They learned about the 3D printing technologies, used materials and their sustainability, how a 3D printer is made and how is it working. They gained input on how to design elements, use critical thinking and their creativeness as well as STEM knowledge for coming up with riddles, how to plan them online and program them by themselves as well as embed the riddles into an exciting story. They also learned, what are the most common mistakes in 3D printing and how to avoid them. Input parts were always kept to a minimum so that they would have plenty of time to work on their escape boxes and learn along the way. Even though they had to make the escape box on their own, they received plenty of support from their female STEM mentors. One mentor per group guided them through the process, answered their questions in the working phases and gave tips, but also encouraged them to learn by making mistakes.
At the end of the summer school each groups presented their own escape box and tried out the escape boxes from the other participants, lifting their transversal skills.
Apart from developing an escape box from scratch that they were taking home later, we invited brilliant female STEM professionals to participate in the summer school and tell the girls their professional development and also get very personal about their personal lives, challenges and fighting with gender stereotypes. The girls heard first-hand about 3-D printed items utilization in medicine, thus gaining a better understanding, how useful STEM is for the society and individual persons. They also got close insights in challenges and benefits of starting and leading very own business. Through the speakers and following discussions, accompanied by these well-experienced females, the girls were sensitized for seeking entrepreneurial potentials in themselves. We had a specific female empowerment session to informally discuss the role of stereotypes in their lives and whole society, reflect upon their impact on their personal lives and seek countermeasures.
To bring in the entrepreneurial side even more, we organized for girls participating in a city challenge, that is built up like an escape room. This way the participants learned about how an idea can get transformed into a business. Also, in the summer school 2022 on the last day of the summer school we offered an additional event: we organized a materials market where business representatives from local companies demonstrated what STEM related jobs there are and girls together with friends and family were able to get to know them in a casual atmosphere.
The girls were very motivated to show the escape box to their classmates, which they did and were very happy about their successful experience.
We have received also feedback from the parents that that some girls came home “with shining eyes” every day and couldn’t stop talking about the summer school.
Almost all parents as well as girls expressed their wish to participate in the same or similar summer school again.