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Raising European Student Awareness in Aeronautical Research Through School labs

Tags: Air

State of the Art - Background

Developments in science and technology have always been an essential part of societal progress. The ever-increasing importance of science has required both young scientists capable of innovation in a competitive knowledge-based society and scientifically literate citizens. However, a gap has gradually built up between scientists and the public, and this has resulted in a decrease in people's interest, particularly youngsters, towards science and technology.

This drop in interest is not without consequences: although Europe is aiming at a leading position in the aeronautical industry, there are major concerns relating to the educational system being able to provide the human resources needed to sustain the actual trend in development.

Current achievements in aeronautical research at EU level have benefited from a generation of engineers with a specific passion and dedication to this domain, formed from a very early stage in their education.

But today's situation is very different. A very limited number of students are attracted towards engineering activities. The implications are that as the number of interested students decreases, the level of European specialists will be reduced, together with less knowledge in key domains, resulting in a need to rely on non-European engineers. This would be a significant step back for European industry in the high technology domains.


In order to improve the current situation, specific actions are needed at all levels in the educational process. Joint actions at EU level are necessary in the global context of integration and harmonisation of resources. The project REStARTS creates structures that will link the science-teaching world with the aeronautical research organisations.

The concept of REStARTS is to establish a well coordinated link between research organisations in aeronautical sciences and academia for sharing the knowledge, dedicated research infrastructure and the latest research results in order to improve the education of a new generation of engineers for the European aeronautical industry. The objective is to make a significant impact on the educational process from a very early stage and raise public awareness to the technological challenges in aeronautics.

The focus of the activities is dedicated labs, where young students can benefit best from the research infrastructure and knowledge accumulated in complex research projects.

The partners of REStARTS are research and training establishments in aerospace which have considerable experience in aerodynamics and its related areas. An educational partner, the School of Education at the University of Leicester, will ensure the accessibility and impact of the resulting product for teachers and students.

Description of Work

In this project, the partners of the aeronautical research and training institutes develop informative material about current research topics in aeronautics, including basic aerodynamic fundamentals like 'How does an aeroplane fly?' or special challenges the aeronautical research is facing like 'How to make air transport greener' or 'How to ensure satisfaction, safety and security of the passengers'. These demonstrate the direct link between research and society.

The scientists work in co-operation with a pedagogic team and teachers of local schools to compile understandable teaching material, which also includes simple experiments to demonstrate the physical phenomena being investigated. The school lessons based on this material give a first impression of the challenges of modern aeronautical research. The school labs established at the research institutes provide more sophisticated experiments and enable classes to get hands-on experience in scientific work. Additional visits to the laboratories of the project partners and their industrial partners complete the programme.

This will build bridges between school theory and applied research by delivering an insight into the work of research organisations. The ambition is to stimulate young people's interests in a R&D career in aeronautics and to create a European network of aeronautical school labs.

Expected Results

Initiatives from research centres to communicate with young people and teachers are rare. Few national initiatives exist but a large number of isolated researchers try to communicate through various media. The long-term objective of REStARTS is to establish a European platform based on this pilot experience, which will result in teaching material on aeronautics. Beyond this pilot phase, the aim is to demonstrate the efficiency of school labs to motivate young people, and in particular girls, towards aeronautics.

Deliverables consist of resources of written documentation and protocols for experiments for primary and secondary teachers. The reputation of research and training centres such as CIRA, INCAS, VKI, and DLR in terms of scientific research is already established. The participation of experts in pedagogy will guarantee that the REStARTS project will become the pilot for a process that will generate strong motivation towards aeronautics for a large number of children and students, leading to a better public image.