Pupils from the Girls' Day Academy Dresden visited the "Friedrich List" Faculty of Transport and Traffic Sciences at TU Dresden in several workshops and took home exciting impressions.

They are interested in science and technology and spend an afternoon every week for one school year "getting a taste" of a different profession or course of study in the MINT field: the girls of the Girls' Day Academy (GDA) Dresden. In the first half of the current school year, three groups of 7th to 9th grade girls from different Dresden schools visited the Faculty of Transportation and Traffic Sciences "Friedrich List" at TU Dresden.

One group visited and tested the faculty's flight simulator - a faithful replica of the Airbus A320 glass cockpit. They were supervised by Kati Ahnert, research assistant at the Chair of Air Transport Technology and Logistics. Before the girls took to the skies virtually, the scientist told them about her own career after graduating from high school and answered questions. The highlight of the afternoon, however, was trying out the flight simulator, including take-offs and landings. In addition, the girls were given information about the transport studies at the faculty, including the diploma course in traffic engineering and various master's programmes - also with a focus on air transport and logistics.
At the end of the visit, there was a short evaluation of what they had experienced - anonymously via paper bits. Being allowed to "fly" was very well received by all the girls, but the theory part was also "cool and informative". One girl wrote that she liked the combination of theory and practice. The participants passed on their enthusiasm to the girls in the other Dresden GDA groups, so that more visits to Kati Ahnert and the flight simulator will follow in the coming school year.

Excitement in the laboratory of Electric Railways

A second group of girls dropped by the Chair of Electric Railways. Luise Wottke and Johannes Strohhäcker, research assistants at the chair, guided through the afternoon, which they had prepared intensively. Here, too, everything began with some (physics) theory before it was off to Jochen Kriesel's laboratory. What does power mean? Which technical devices have how many watts or even megawatts and what advantages does an electric drive for vehicles have over other drives? The girls approached the topics with small experiments and certainly had a lot to talk about at the dinner table with their families in the evening.

In the laboratory at Jochen Kriesel's there was illustrative material about railway drives, overhead lines and current collectors. For example, the girls were able to touch a real copper contact wire for railway overhead lines with the realisation that the term "wire" does not quite fit for the solid metal rod. "It is very important to us to pass on our own enthusiasm for our field of research and transport to schoolchildren," say Luise Wottke and Johannes Strohhäcker about their motivation to offer regular workshops and guided tours for schoolchildren.

Group of young male researchers promotes female reinforcement in science and research

Highly motivated and also a little excited, a team of scientists from the Chair of Big Data Analytics in Transportation visited a third group of girls from the Girls' Day Academy Dresden. Jonathan Heins, Markus Leyser and Lennart Schäpermeier organised an exciting afternoon. The topics were machine learning (ML), traffic research and route planning, and autonomous driving. The fourth in the group was Master's student Lukas Unterschütz, who works as a student assistant at the chair. He introduced the girls to the study options at the faculty from both a content and student perspective. With a twinkle in their eyes, the four scientists pointed out that unfortunately there was not (yet) a female scientist at the chair who could have joined them that afternoon. "To change that, we like to offer such workshops for pupils. After all, computer science and transport science are an exciting combination - for girls, too," said Lennart Schäpermeier.

The scientists had brought several digital application programs with them for the girls to try out. These included an ML model that can be used to calculate the shoe size with the help of different body data (height, weight). As a second experiment, the girls investigated their choice of transport and its influence on their way to school and examined how data analysis can be useful in relation to transport structures and a more sustainable transport system.

Later on, the pupils planned a virtual route along different places of interest in Dresden. This was done using the phenomenon known scientifically as the Traveling Salesperson Problem.

At the end of their visit, the girls competed against an autonomous car using a simulation. While they were better than the machine at the beginning, this changed from one attempt to the next, much to the amazement of the girls. The installation used was based on reinforcement learning, an emerging research field in artificial intelligence. The car learns to drive independently through the process of engaging with the environment and various impressions gained. Thus, after a few rounds, the (simulated) car was able to beat the participants. The girls were visibly amazed by this and also took home many exciting insights from this afternoon.


Markus Leyser / Redaktion Verkehrslage

About the Girls' Day Academy Dresden

The Girl's Day Academy is part of a nationwide cooperation project between schools, business and science. Schoolgirls in grades 7 - 9 have the opportunity to immerse themselves in various professions in the MINT field (science & technology) for one school year.

As part of the Girls' Academy (Dresden), there is the opportunity to experiment, research and programme (robots, games or e-cars), to take a look at the fields of mathematics, computer science, natural science and technology for the first time and to observe various women working in this field at work. In Dresden, there are currently four fixed groups that meet weekly on an afternoon.

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