Erasmus+ STEM project brings together students from 3 countries in Slovenia

All participating students on their afternoon trip to Postojna Cave (Photo: Facebook Erasmus+ u Prvoj gimnaziji Varaždin)

All good things must come to an end’, say the students who participated in the Erasmus+ project STEM – Successfully Reaching Competences, a month ago in Ljubljana, the Slovenian capital. The Croatian group from Prva gimnazija Varaždin was accompanied by the physics teacher Dinko Meštrović and biology teacher Marko Šafran, as well as students from Prva kragujevačka gimnazija, Serbia and Škofijska klasična gimnazija, Slovenia.

Katarina Šac is a student in the IBDP program at Prva gimnazija Varaždin, and she carries only good memories from Ljubljana. She joined me for a short interview about the project to share her positive experiences.

When asked about her general impression, she first pointed out the location and participants. ‘Ljubljana is a beautiful city, and I really liked the people that went with me. I really enjoyed the company of Serbian students who were all very outgoing. Even though some Slovenian students were a bit more reserved, the atmosphere was great, and I made a lot of new connections!’ She also added that the food was great.

All workshops were based mostly on experimental, but also mathematical skills needed in physics. There were numerous, but Katarina clearly had a favorite: ‘I especially enjoyed the workshops our teachers prepared, because we had the opportunity to learn how to use a 3D printer and 3D modelling programs, which is something I have been curious about and wanted to try it for a long time.’ The 3D printing workshops gave students many new perspectives, but they also used their models to perform experiments. ‘We developed a sensor that measures the speed of light. We could see the entire process of making something from scratch, which was very interesting.’

Katarina and her partner working on an experiment (Photo: Facebook Erasmus+ u Prvoj gimnaziji Varaždin)

Katarina also participated in workshops prepared by teachers from the other two participating schools. This gave her and other students a chance to perform experiments with their own hands instead of watching simulations online – for the first time in more than a year. ‘Some other workshops were also well-prepared, giving us the opportunity to try to perform some experiments with our bare hands, which was a nice change since we really lacked such opportunities in the past school year since the pandemic started.’ Some of these experiments included calculating the speed of a passing car using the Doppler effect, determining the gamma radiation absorption coefficient, determining the speed of ultrasound, measuring the surface tension.

She also commented on the equipment at Škofijska gimnazija, as there were some tools they got to use for the first time, as they are not used in class at her school. ‘The school that hosted us, Škofijska klasična gimnazija, provided us with equipment not commonly seen in our regular classes. For example, the gamma detector and gamma transmitter, and of course, the 3D printers. We in fact do have 3D printers at our school, but we do not get to use them a lot. The gamma detectors were useful in the experiments where we measured how effective gamma radiation was at passing through several different materials.’

Photo: Facebook Erasmus+ u Prvoj gimnaziji Varaždin

‘I got to meet people who are really smart and had a lot to learn from them. Here I would once again point out the Serbian students, whom we mostly worked in pairs with.’ She added that this experience promoted both international friendships and STEM activities among young students. ‘We got to talk about how different things work in our countries, learn a lot from each other and the workshops and had a lot of fun in the process.’

She finished the interview by recommending such projects to younger students too. She hopes to motivate them to get out of their comfort zone and learn something new, all while making new friends and connections between nations. ‘If an opportunity for something similar comes up at my university, I will most certainly not miss out on it.’

Written by: Mihael Kralj

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