Model for successfully supporting gifted students in STEM subjects
Bringing school to the university: 10 years of TUM-Kolleg
Once a week it's "TUM Day". Then around 15 selected high school students each from Gauting's Otto-von-Taube-Gymnasium and from the Garching Werner-Heisenberg-Gymnasium leave their high-school classrooms for the university world of laboratory and library. In the first months of their senior phase the students are introduced to the topics of the TUM departments and exercises teach them about the methods used in the various subjects. Then the students make the plunge into science: They spend an entire year researching a question which they have developed jointly together with a given university chair. They do research based on existing scientific literature, perform experiments, interpret the results and write a final paper on their findings.
Past research topics include for example "Interaction between cell components of microalgae and magnetic nanoparticles", "Simulation of the temperature conditions at the lunar south pole" and "Max-plus algebra in algebraic structures and spectral analysis".
The members of the TUM-Kolleg are chosen as gifted individuals at their high schools and are placed on a separate track working towards the German A-levels, the Abitur. Their curriculum is aligned with the program at TUM. A permanent part of the TUM-Kolleg involves spending several weeks of practical internship in a foreign country, often arranged with the assistance of TUM alumni.
Today this model, which began ten years ago in Gauting and which remains unique throughout Germany, is celebrating its anniversary. By now approximately 190 talented young students have conducted research at some 100 TUM chairs. Their work has earned numerous awards in Germany-wide competitions, they have been published in scientific journals and even registered a patent covering an ergonomic lamp for a firefighter's helmet. They pass on their enthusiasm and experiences to younger students at their high schools during the annual "Science Day". 83 percent of the graduates go on to university studies in a subject related to natural sciences, medicine or engineering sciences.
At today's anniversary celebration the Bavarian Minister of Education and Cultural Affairs Prof. Michael Piazolo and TUM President Prof. Wolfgang A. Herrmann presented final certificates to the current graduating class. Piazolo emphasized: "The TUM-Kolleg is taking on a vanguard position in promoting young students in the natural sciences. The close collaboration between the secondary schools and the university generates a wide range of valuable impulses promoting interested and well-performing students in daily instruction and providing them with special additional service ranges in the STEM subjects."
"TUM and these two excellent high schools have created a model for successfully promoting talented young individuals with this intensive, institutionalized and long-term convergence of the school and the university," said President Herrmann. "Awakening an interest is one thing. Keeping the enthusiasm of outstanding young talents alive and preparing the optimum path leading these young talents to university studies calls for more. We are exercising social responsibility with this exemplary TUM-Kolleg model by supporting especially gifted high school students at the university."
Both programs are coordinated by the TUM School of Education, the department for teacher training and educational research. The TUM School of Education also organizes additional possibilities for secondary school students, for example in the TUMlab at the Deutsche Museum and in the Student Research Center Berchtesgadener Land. A close-knit network with schools ensures that new research results are integrated in school practice. "My dream was always a 'university high school' under the roof of TUM", observes President Herrmann. "We have successfully made the first permanent steps, the seminal work of classroom interaction between high school and university instructors is proving itself viable and effective."