“Is sodium hydroxide corrosive?” Veronika Wimmer looks at her colleague Barabara Heiß quizzically. The young woman with light brown, curly hair pours over the plan showing how the scientists’ stands will be allocated. “If so, we’ll have to be careful where that stand goes.”
The 19-year-old no longer gets nervous when faced with such questions. The high school graduate from Burghausen is completing a training course at WACKER to become a management assistant. There the focus is on business administration. But for a few months now Veronika Wimmer has been making a foray into event management. Together with Barbara Heiß, Nicole Gruber and Stefanie Ries she is organizing Bavaria’s state-wide “Young Scientists” competition. Here the apprentices have a chance to prove that they are capable of carrying out tasks more sophisticated than those usually assigned to assistants. “I would never have thought that we’d be given so much responsibility,” says 18-year-old Nicole Gruber.
“Young Scientists” is the largest youth competition for science and technology in Europe. 86 young people qualified for the competition in the state of Bavaria. The winners were chosen at the beginning of April in the Deutsches Museum in Munich. It was a mammoth operation taking place over four days with a packed program including tours, interviews with the press and events in the evenings.
This was all organized by the four-person team of apprentices. The young women are based in two offices at WACKER’s Munich headquarters. A large cardboard box on the window ledge with the “Young Scientists” logo reveals what the project is about. Inside are stickers, bags and badges. On Veronika’s desk are a number of ring binders with registration forms neatly stored in transparent document pockets.
The “Young Scientists” team has been working hard for a year now to ensure that the competition goes off without a hitch. Designing name badges, planning menus, looking after judges and sending off press releases. The apprentices are even responsible for calculating the costs of the project. But despite really being thrown in at the deep end, their supervisor, Joachim Zdzieblo, has praised the fact that so far everything is going to plan: “The apprentices are incredibly well motivated and tackle their work with real enthusiasm.” But he also knows that the four days with the competition participants could potentially be stressful. However, his team is remaining calm: “I’m not panicking just yet,” explains 21 year old Stefanie Ries. “In fact, I’m just excited.”
For them the project is more than just your average apprentice placement. “We’ve become more confident,” explains Stefanie. “It’s helped me to be more organized and keep on top of things,” says Veronika Wimmer. “And we’ve also learned to delegate things to other people,” adds Barbara Heiß. “Of course we’re normally the ones to whom tasks are delegated.” They all nod and laugh as Nicole Gruber continues: “We’re constantly thinking about “Young Scientists” – even at the weekend!”
Barbara Heiß is about to start a new commitment as an event manager as soon as the “Young Scientists” stands in the Deutsches Museum have been dismantled. She has been given the go-ahead to help the WACKER team in Istanbul organize the site’s 20th anniversary. She’s already looking forward to the challenge and says: “I really think I can show my colleagues over there what I have learned in the last few months,”
Find out more about Bavaria’s state-wide “Young Scientists” competition at http://www.2014.jugend-forscht-bayern.de . The four apprentices also coordinated the content for this website.