|Dr. Reinhard Laubenbacher|
The Kids' Tech University (KTU) program is different from other kids' programs because it puts real researchers in front of children to give exciting interactive sessions on those infamous "why" questions that have always intrigued children. The goal isn't to teach the children, but, rather, to get them excited about science and technology through a shared enthusiasm of the subject areas. The program also shows kids that scientists are the true explorers and adventurers of the 21st century.
Using a university setting and atmosphere to stimulate interest in science and technology disciplines, KTU™ will also help familiarize kids with a college setting. The participants will interact with undergraduate and graduate students, researchers, and fellow participants. The curriculum will include interactive sessions, hands-on campus activities, and a virtual component. The purpose of the interactive sessions is to capture the participants' attention for a given science, technology, engineering or mathematics subject, while the on-campus activities encourage kids to transform learning into doing. Finally, the online KTU™ component reinforces the subject areas with activities designed to channel the participants' excitement for the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.
How KTU Came to Be...
Kids' Tech University™ was developed based on a model European educational program that introduces children to the educational style of a university. In 2002, two German journalists, Ulrich Janssen and Ulla Steuernagel, founded the first ever "Kid's University" (in German "Die Kinder-Uni") at the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen in Germany. With full community support, they organized "Die Kinder-Uni" for children between the ages of 8-12. One of the key components of the program was providing the children with a "university experience." The program included interactive sessions held in university lecture halls and presented by university professors. Each interactive session addressed a question which started with "why," such as, "Why do the stars not fall out of the sky?" and "Why is cloning people not allowed?" Preliminary research has shown that the children enrolled in the program had an increased understanding and awareness of the interactive session topics.
Die Kinder-Uni created a European movement in which Kids Universities were established at 100 universities in eight European countries. Now the concept is being introduced in the United States.
VBI and Virginia Tech Math Professor Reinhard Laubenbacher read about "Die Kinder-Uni" during a family visit to Germany. Laubenbacher visited Janssen and Steuernagel in Tübingen, and was so impressed by the program and the success it had achieved in his native country that he brought the idea back with him when he returned to the United States. Laubenbacher, who also serves as VBI's deputy director of education and outreach, has a genuine passion for encouraging kids' interest in science, math, and related subjects, and believes that this exceptional program should be available for children in the United States. He recruited VBI Education and Outreach Senior Research Associate Kristy Collins, and together they have been the driving force behind the effort to make Kids' Tech University™ a reality for Virginia Tech and its surrounding communities.