Student lab aims to increase children’s and young people’s understanding of computer science

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© Oliver Dietze

How can I get a drone to perform little tricks? Is it difficult to program a robot? And how does a machine actually learn? Children and young people can deal with questions like these in the Computer Science lab for schoolchildren. At present, the lab mainly offers online services aimed at students of different ages and also at teaching staff. They aim to promote the understanding of computer science in society as a whole.

The Computer Science Lab, or InfoLab Saar for short, is part of the didactics of computer science at Saarland University and offers a wide range of advanced training opportunities for pupils and teachers, tailored to the respective target groups:

Programming courses in various programming languages, robot and drone programming, or a hardware set in which a functioning computer can be disassembled into its individual parts and reassembled are offered for students of all ages. But more complex topics such as machine learning, artificial intelligence and ethical questions of computer science are also on the agenda at InfoLab Saar. Laptops, minicomputers, robots and drones are available in classroom sets and can be used both directly on site in the student lab and during school visits by the InfoLab team.

“Our participants are often amazed at how exciting and understandable computer science can be. They notice each time anew: Computer science is not a book with seven seals,” says computer science professor Verena Wolf. Due to the Corona pandemic, the student lab has switched its offerings to online formats. These are well received: “We have observed that many of our participants come back and show continued enthusiasm for the subject,” adds Professor Wolf. Only recently, InfoLab Saar was included in the program for the promotion of gifted students of the Saarland Ministry of Education and Culture.

The further training of teaching staff is also an important concern of InfoLab Saar. Here, the multiplier effect is relied upon. “The deeper the understanding of computer science among teachers of all subjects, the better-prepared future generations of students will be for the advancing digitalization”, says Kerstin Reese, research assistant at the Student Laboratory. For example, since June 2020, InfoLab Saar has been offering further training courses for teachers which have been officially recognized by the State Institute for Education and Media. In addition, the team of the Schülerlabor Informatik is also directly involved in the schools. “At the Rohrbach Community School we organize teacher training courses and at the Scheidt Elementary School we offer a computer science club”, says Reese.

Teacher training at Saarland University also benefits from InfoLab Saar: “Prospective teachers can work with us as research assistants and gain initial experience in teaching computer science content – in addition to what they learn in our recently reformed teacher training program,” adds Professor Wolf.

Education Minister Christine Streichert-Clivot explained during a working visit to the student lab: “My goal is to make Saarland a pioneer in digital education. Saarland University, especially the computer science didactics department around Professor Wolf, is an important partner in this endeavor. Important work is being done here to make our teaching staff fit for the digitally supported teaching of the future and to advance computer science education in the state. Computer science as a school subject must be standard in the future”.

Saarland University’s InfoLab Saar is located on the Saarland Informatics Campus. It is organized by Professor Verena Wolf together with her research assistant Kerstin Reese.

Further information:

Questions can be directed at:
Prof. Dr. Verena Wolf
Phone: +49 (0)681 302-5586

Philipp Zapf-Schramm
Competence Center Computer Science
Saarland Informatics Campus
Phone: +49 681 302-70741

Background Saarland Informatics Campus:
800 scientists and about 2000 students from more than 80 nations make the Saarland Informatics Campus (SIC) one of the leading locations for computer science in Germany and Europe. Five world-renowned research institutes, namely the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), the Max Planck Institute for Computer Science, the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems, the Center for Bioinformatics and the Cluster for “Multimodal Computing and Interaction” as well as Saarland University with three departments and 21 degree programs cover the entire spectrum of computer science.

Die Öffentlichkeitsarbeit am Saarland Informatics Campus wird unterstützt durch das Kompetenzzentrum Informatik Saarland, gefördert aus Mitteln des Europäischen Fonds für regionale Entwicklung (EFRE) und Mitteln der Staatskanzlei Saarland.

Logo Europäischer Fonds für regionale Entwicklung
Logo Staatskanzlei Saarland