“When I Grow up I Want to Be a Scientist“

The project “Young Uni” at the University of Innsbruck was launched in September 2001 - the first of its kind in German speaking countries. This year it celebrates its tenth year with the slogan “Setting out into New Worlds”.
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Image: On average every year more than 10,000 children and teenagers attend and participate in the events organized by the Young Uni

The first time the University opened its doors for children and teenagers was on the occasion of the ten year anniversary of the discovery of Ötzi the Iceman in 2001. The goal of the project was to invite all children regardless of their educational strata to come to the University and interest them in science – with great success. Since then the formats of the children’s university of the University of Innsbruck and the University of Tubingen, developed almost at the same time, have been adopted by almost 100 other academic institutions in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, England, Slovakia and Columbia. The Head of the University of Innsbruck Tilman Märk regards the Young Uni as an investment in the future: “The University of Innsbruck provides an important service to our society as it brings science and research to young people in a playful manner and at an early age. Sparking interest in science, using the natural curiosity of children and combining this with science and education early on, are the essentials for developing a knowledge-based economy.“
The Innsbruck concept has indeed been successful: On average every year more than 10,000 children and teenagers attend and participate in the events organized by the Young Uni. Thus, the organization and implementation of the project has become an important aspect of the University’s mission for education and eventually, it is also important for promoting young scientists.

Added value for society

In contrast to the lectures and mass events organized by many other children’s universities, the Young Uni Innsbruck has always offered mainly interactive workshops for children and teenagers. “Our young guests work and talk with scientists in small working groups. The leading principles are ‘hands on’ and ‘learning by doing’. Another important goal of our Young Uni is to appeal to young people from lower education strata of society in order to help to overcome social obstacles or the fear of the unknown,” says Silvia Prock project manager of the Young Uni Innsbruck about the concept of the project.
In addition to the main event days, Prock’s team has developed several other events over the years. One of these projects is ‘Young Uni Multi Culti’, which is especially designed for children with different cultural and social backgrounds to overcome social barriers or obstacles. This helps to counter negative preconceptions of higher education institutions already developed at kindergarten age. Moreover, the Young Uni participates in the summer program for Innsbruck’s school children and supports many other initiatives that aim to interest children and teenagers in science and art.

Setting out into new worlds

This year the University of Innsbruck opened its doors for the Tyroleans again: More than 3,000 children and teenagers together with their teachers and parents came to experience science first-hand. The slogan of the event days was Setting out into New Worlds. Many scientists from the humanities and the arts, the natural and technical sciences participated in the program. They showed their young guests what they are working on and offered numerous opportunities to try out science themselves. It is no surprise that afterwards many children and teenagers expressed the clear wish: “When I grow up, I want to be a scientist!“