Training future scientists: Teaching quantum physics through play at an early age
The ct.qmat Cluster of Excellence at the University of Würzburg and Technische Universität Dresden has launched a new project in collaboration with the national network of STEM schools of excellence, MINT-EC. The aim is to incorporate the latest quantum physics research results into the school curriculum as quickly as possible. Teachers and scientists are working together to develop teaching resources, with focus on gamification principles – teaching through play. Drawing on the award-winning app “Kitty Q – A Quantum Adventure,” quantum physics content will be added into school curricula as early as grade 6.
Germany is one of the leading nations worldwide when it comes to the promotion of quantum technology. However, the much discussed labor shortage also affects science – especially the core subjects. Not many school pupils are excited by physics and choose to pursue the subject during their university entrance qualifications (Abitur). This is why Würzburg and Dresden’s Cluster of Excellence ct.qmat – Complexity and Topology in Quantum Matter and MINT-EC, a national network uniting schools with a strong mathematic and scientific profile, have launched a collaborative project. Over the next two years, teachers from German MINT-EC schools will work together with researchers from the Cluster of Excellence to create school resources focusing on quantum physics – with a new, application-oriented and playful approach. These resources are to be used starting with the first physics class in grade 6.
Status quo of quantum physics in German schools
In Germany, students are only introduced to quantum physics at the upper secondary level, following an approach strongly steeped in tradition. Bavaria is the exception, where students are introduced to the topic in grade 10. All federal states cover the underlying principles of quantum physics, but fail to teach about its exciting phenomena or revolutionary uses. “The technical development in quantum materials and quantum technologies in recent years has been truly game-changing. If Germany really wants to play a pioneering role here, cutting-edge scientific developments must reach students in the classrooms quickly and at a much earlier age,” stresses Prof. Matthias Vojta, spokesperson of the Dresden branch of ct.qmat Cluster of Excellence.
Gamification: learning physics made easy through play
Current didactic research sees the potential of educational video games for teaching quantum physics content in schools because this approach has proven especially effective in physics lessons. “Previous studies have shown that educational video games have a positive effect on motivation, learning achievements and social interaction. This is usually explained by the digital native generation’s proximity to digital media,” says Carsten Albert, who researches the topic of gamifaction in physics lessons at the ct.qmat Cluster of Excellence. “This is why the Kitty Q app sits comfortably in the zeitgeist, not only thematically, but also didactically. And because it’s designed for children aged eleven and up, it can be used as early as the first year of physics classes.”
Teachers & researchers working together
The first MINT-EC cluster topic on quantum physics was launched on March 11 today to ensure that pupils benefit from brand new scientific research findings as quickly as possible. Teachers from MINT-EC schools will work in various groups with researchers from ct.qmat to develop innovative ideas and resources for physics lessons that have a real-world application. When the two-year project has come to an end, the outcome will be published in the MINT-EC lecture series.
Date & Facts
11 Mar 2022
Kitty-Q – A Quantum Adventure app
The mobile game Kitty Q was developed to familiarize children, girls in particular, with study options in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Physics in particular is one of the subjects with an especially low proportion of women. With Kitty Q, the ct.qmat research alliance between the University of Würzburg and Technische Universität Dresden takes an unusual approach to recruiting young talent because it addresses a very young target group. The game has been available for download in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store since fall 2021, and has been downloaded 80,000 times so far.
Cluster of Excellence ct.qmat
The Cluster of Excellence ct.qmat – Complexity and Topology in Quantum Matter is a joint research collaboration by Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg and Technische Universität (TU) Dresden since 2019. More than 270 scientists from 34 countries and four continents perform research on topological quantum materials that reveal surprising phenomena under extreme conditions such as ultra-low temperatures, high pressures, or strong magnetic fields. If it becomes possible to exploit these unusual properties under ambient conditions, they will serve as a foundation for revolutionary quantum chips and new types of technological applications. The Cluster of Excellence is funded within Excellence Strategy of the federal and state governments–as the only cluster in Germany that traverses federal state boundaries.
MINT-EC is a national excellence network of secondary schools in Germany that prepare students for further education and feature a strong profile in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Alongside an assortment of events and support programs for students, MINT-EC also offers networking opportunities for teaching staff and school management. Currently, the network has a membership of 339 schools including around 360,000 pupils and 29,500 teachers. Since 2009, it has been under the patronage of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany (KMK).
© Tobias Ritz