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BMS invests to education  #7-8 (53-54), 2007

BMSJune, 28: supporting the national project “Education”, in the framework of the 39th International students’ academic competition in chemistry, Bayer AG provided place to a round-table discussion on a subject “University education for science and manufacture” in its Moscow office

BMS invests to educationThe round-table discussion was organized by Bayer MaterialScience with assistance of Moscow State University. They managed to attract famous scientists, leading officials from Ministry of Education of Russian Federation, big business representatives (JSC Lukoil-Neftekhim, BP, Helios, Tokyo Boeki Ltd.), people from non-governmental organizations (Vladimir Potanin’s fund) and mass media.
They talked about investments in education, about big business’s interest in higher as well as school education being essential today, because it’s school that molds that unity of young people ready to perceive and handle new technical information in a creative way.
It’s not by occasion that Bayer MaterialScience takes part in discussing education in general and the problem of teaching future scientists and qualified engineers and technicians with science and business communities. For Bayer MaterialScience it’s evident that training specialists is becoming a topical problem and breeding a future specialists should start from the school years, continued in a university and then in the company as well.
Being to a great extent integrated into European life, Bayer cannot but react to tendencies that are now becoming more and more evident. Today many European countries feel serious lack of scientists and engineers. Companies are involved in a fruitless hunt for highly qualified scientists and technicians, but the system of education can not provide specialists corresponding to the present-day market conditions. There’s a serious lack of specialists capable of developing innovative solutions for promoting their company in the world’s market. Many experts and public people mark that today lack of knowledge and practical skills among the students and inefficiency of the existing system of education have become most evident. In order to get authoritative information about 15-year-old students’ the level of knowledge OECD (Organization of Economical Cooperation and Development) has started to put into life international programs studying the level of knowledge among schools students, so-called PISA (Program for International Student Assessment). The first assessment was done in 2000 and showed quite disappointing results for many countries including Russia, taking part in this program as an outside member. So, in Russia and in other European countries education quality improvement has become a question of national importance.
This problem is especially important in the scientific and technical spheres, and these two spheres are the basis for economical welfare. Carin Panknin, one of Bayer managers, represented a project called “BMS school laboratory as a supplementing element of science and technology study as a part of active study program”. She expressed an opinion that for solving the problem volunteer assistance from industrial manufacturers and corporations is essential. For companies, this can be realized in a two-way system: sharing their know-how and investing in training their future staff.
Among the ways to attract pre-graduate students to perceive deeply scientific and technical knowledge, arranging school laboratories, based on large companies’ research and development departments, is a fruitful one. The idea, underlying the similar activity in Germany is to give students an opportunity to get experience that they can never get at a traditional school lesson.
Today there are over 200 school laboratories in Germany, and over 300 thousand students annually train their practical skills in chemistry, physics and biology. These school laboratories are a great success. Over half of them (57%) belong to universities, 18% - to research and development institutions and only 2% - to manufacturing companies. Among the latter there is BMS school laboratory working in Leverkusen since the beginning of the year.
It goes without saying that Bayer enjoys almost a unique competitive trump in this sphere – it was Bayer, who made materials like Makrolon®, that was a cornerstone for the digital data carriers era. And now Bayer prefers not to hide their scientific and technical wealth but to use it efficiently in order to breed a worthy shift for the present-day staff on the achievements of the previous generations of specialists. What is it, if not a perfect example of intergenerational continuity and applying knowledge to satisfy the demands of the present-day world!
It’s most evident that students can hardly imagine what high-tech plastics can do until they see how they are manufactured. BMS laboratory involves school students in creative and innovative projects.
Bayer MaterialScience laboratory is open for students’ groups and their teachers 3-4 times a week. Studies take place in a BMS production site’s workshop, it’s area is 400 square meters. Students see the whole process, beginning with the idea and ending with a finished product output with their own eyes. Apart from interactive education students get an understanding of how individual capabilities and work in team can lead to a great economic profit. Most students agree that just one day in BMS laboratory has changed their attitude towards the school subject: they have looked at science and technology (that have a “boring” image) from an opposite side.
In Russia similar laboratories used to function in a Polytechnic museum and were quite popular in the past years among schools students of all ages. However, now the former interest has faded away. Maybe, rebirth of school laboratories will stimulate interest to the Polytechnic Museum and educational programs it offers, and also creating like laboratories with assistance from Russian chemical companies who will be able to introduce something new and non-conventional in the system.

One day in Bayer MaterialScience school laboratory
An ordinary day in a school laboratory starts at 9.15 AM. After a lection introducing the topic of the day, students are made familiar with the principal safety regulations and rules for possible accidents. Then all students are divided in four different groups and work from 9.45 AM till midday.
After lunch students begin producing “their own” product and make it till 3.30 PM. After cleaning working places they have time to discuss the day and ask BMS staff some questions. The day program  is finished at 4.00 PM with a questionnaire.
Why are students divided into four groups? These groups imitate the structure of the “grown-up” working team taking part in the research process in the company. Technical team studies technological requirements concerning temperature and material like temperature rate, drying, materials pretreatment. The same team plans efficient production and material purchase. Science and research team deals with testing material properties – melting temperature, tensile strength, scratch resistance and resistance to dissolvents. Students in this group at the same time get familiar with the chief principles of various processing methods like injection molding, thermoforming or diffusion methods. Besides this, they learn to find defects (air insertions) during the central phase of material testing and compare the results of various processing methods. Designer team creates different design variants – that is, chooses the colour, film structure and degree of transparency. This team also evaluates the chances to perform the set task, which requires interaction with other groups. Questioning the fellow-students on what the product should look like is also impossible without interaction.
Communication team takes photos of the teams’ working and makes a report for the school paper. This team is also responsible for the final presentation and introducing the product as part of Bayer MaterialScience work directions.
Finishing work in laboratory, students can take the product they made with them, like, for example motorcycle glasses made of Makrolon®.


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