New opportunities for KTU students at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research

Important | 2021-02-22

The world’s largest laboratory for particle physics, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), provides new opportunities for Lithuanian students to lead in interdisciplinary teams and to access unique technologies and resources. With the recent signing of a new cooperation agreement between CERN and Kaunas University of Technology (KTU), KTU students will be able to participate in the Challenge-Based Innovation programme organised by CERN’s IdeaSquare unit.

The Challenge Based Innovation (CBI) programme is a one-semester master’s level course for students in industrial design, business, engineering and architecture.

Director of KTU Studies Department

“During this course, international student teams from different countries work together both at their home universities by communicating with students from other universities remotely, and at CERN. About three weeks per semester – one week in the beginning, another week in the middle and one more week at the end of the semester – they spend at CERN collaborating with teams of scientists, engineers and technicians from various institutes and universities participating in the CERN research programme”, says Kristina Ukvalbergienė, Director of KTU Studies Department.

During the course, students will participate in a variety of activities that will develop products based on consumer needs. The result is a prototype of a product for the end-user.

The goal is an experiential learning

According to Jurgita Barynienė, Coordinator of Academic Competencies of Teachers at EDU_Lab, an agreement that has been signed presents a very good opportunity for KTU students to get acquainted with CERN activities. Also, joining intercultural and interdisciplinary teams creates significant added value for the development of the skills and competencies of students. This is why interdisciplinary teams are becoming the driving force behind modern innovative solutions in society.

Jurgita Baryniene, EDU_Lab

“Students get the opportunity to get acquainted with the latest and most advanced research, to see how teams work using innovative ways of thinking, to learn from leaders in different fields”, says Barynienė.

According to her, the Challenge-Based Innovation programme is a unique opportunity for students to work with leaders in interdisciplinary teams, develop critical thinking, creativity, and test how the solutions can become real products through prototyping and testing.

“In essence, the students can try out practical experiential learning opportunities”, says Barynienė.

An opportunity not only for students but also for teachers

CERN IdeaSquare also organises intensive one-week creative workshops for students and teachers.

“These intensive one-week creative workshops, additionally organised by CERN IdeaSquare, usually take place in November”, says Ukvalbergienė.

The CERN module addresses real challenges, which in turn contribute to increasing students’ motivation and arousal of curiosity, and the development of practical skills. As a result, the ability to assess a real problem from different perspectives and to look for various unusual and non-traditional solutions is developed.

“Meanwhile, for the teachers it is a great opportunity to establish scientific contacts, to see how the teams of students and professionals work, to take part in the teamwork themselves, to participate in the exchange of ideas”, says Barynienė.

The Challenge-Based Innovation programme is one of IdeaSquare@CERN’s key activities to demonstrate the impact of fundamental research on people’s daily lives. IdeaSquare is an innovation laboratory and a space for experimentation, testing innovative methodologies, and connecting interdisciplinary and intercultural teams for joint activities.

Challenge-based learning is a new direction in teaching and learning practice

The challenge-based teaching and learning methodology is also applied by ECIU University, of which, together with 11 other partners in Europe, KTU is a member. Challenge-based studies, science and innovation are at the heart of this project.

“Challenge-based learning method, which was born at Apple, is strongly penetrating the field of higher education. At the heart of challenge-based learning is a complex challenge that arises from a real practical environment and the solution of which is important not only for the challenge provider but also for the general public. The solution of the challenge contributes to a better quality of public life”, says Barynienė.

The main stages of challenge-based learning are engagement, investigation and action. In the engagement phase, the aim is to get to know the context as widely as possible and to form a challenge, which is then addressed by the teams. In the investigation phase, students raise important questions, look for a variety of resources to find the answers to the questions raised, collaborate with external partners to develop a prototype of the solution.

“In the action phase, the students test the prototype and, after receiving feedback, improve it, implement and analyse the effectiveness, success and impact of the solution. Students become the solvers of the challenge, and the solutions created by them are applied in solving the problems relevant to the society”, says Barynienė.

According to her, today teaching and learning practices transcend the boundaries of a university, and the external environment becomes a teaching and learning resource. Therefore, it is important to think about the constant access for students to external resources, about the fact that the teaching and learning process can take place anywhere and at any time, with the help of not only teachers but also external partners.

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