The US ambassador to Switzerland and the next president of EPFL were on campus today to award certificates to local nine-to-twelve year olds who had completed the IT workshops given by EPFL's Science Outreach Department.
Today, those who had taken part in the "internet for girls" course organized by the Science Outreach Department were on campus to receive their certificates. This 23rd edition of the ceremony had some distinguished guests, with Suzan LeVine, the US ambassador to Switzerland, and Martin Vetterli, the next EPFL president, both taking part.
A total of 148 schoolgirls aged between 9 and 12 took part in IT courses organized in Lausanne and Porrentruy in recent months. Over 11 half-day sessions, they learnt how to create their own website. "Don't lose that curiosity that led you to the course," urged Suzan LeVine. During her speech, the ambassador, who herself has a scientific background, told the audience about her unusual career path, which took her from studies in aerospace and English to volunteering to work for Barack Obama’s election campaign in the area of social media. She's a real source of inspiration for young girls.
And yes, it was a course just for girls. In fact, the Science Outreach Department organizes a whole series of activities aimed at sparking an interest in information and communication technology in young girls. The proportion of female students in this field at EPFL, for example, was still only 14.5% in 2015. "We need to give young girls more confidence in their capacties and ensure they get proper training so that later on they will consider entering these fields at university and professionally," said Farnaz Moser, Head of the Science Outreach Department, who has been organizing these courses for 13 years.
Eleven weeks to build a dog robot
Certificates for the robotics courses were also awarded today. Some 50 11-to-13-year-old boys and girls have been learning how to build and program a robot since March. "The aim is to build a robot that looks like a dog on a lead; it can bark, turn its head and doesn't bang into walls," explained Jonathan Lutz, an EPFL Masters student and Department assistant. He came from Jura Canton every week to share his passion with the younger generation.
"We'll see you all at the start of 2022 academic year!" joked Martin Vetterli to the 200 9-to-13 year olds who quite possibly discovered a new passion or a future career during the sessions. And even if they didn't, the workshops will have taught them new skills that they won't get to learn at school. So, mission accomplished. The ceremony was followed by a "science discovery day," with the children and their parents coming from Jura Canton by bus to learn more about various scientific experiments.
The Science Outreach Department organizes other courses, camps and workshops for young children and teenagers. They are given across French-speaking Switzerland and aim to promote science and technology among young people, whetting their appetite for science early on in life. To find out more: http://sps.epfl.ch/