When Associate Professor Arvo Mere invited upper secondary school students to a solar panel workshop organised by TalTech in mid-November, while performing on Ringvaade, he had no idea that in addition to young people, the desire to construct something with their own hands was also sparked in people in their golden years.
‘Five solar panels are ready,’ says Arvo Mere, as during their last lesson on 16 December, young people under his guidance put finishing touches on the project they had been working on for a month. At the end of January and in March, next groups of young people will start making solar panels in the TalTech workshop.
The upper secondary school students who participated in the first workshop exceeded all expectations. ‘I was surprised that I only had to explain everything to them once – they immediately understood and got to work. If before the workshop we were worried that we might break too many elements or run out of material, nothing like that ever happened. I would say that this group was very skilful and eco-friendly,’ experienced lecturer Mere praises the students.
Researcher Merike Kriisa and Doctoral Student / Early Stage Researcher Robert Krautmann, who helped supervise the project, also noticed the enthusiasm and determination of the teens. ‘The group was excellent and cooperative with good technical skills,’ notes Krautmann.
Looking proudly at their solar panels, the five youngsters admitted that the hardest part was soldering. ‘It took a long time and several attempts,’ admits Ott, who was encouraged to take part by his mother. Jarmo, already an adult, had no issues with anything. ‘Everything went smoothly!’
The researchers of TalTech were also able to spark the interest of several young people in studying at the university. ‘They saw that our lecturers are not just a bunch of boring scientists, but actually, very nice people,’ adds Arvo Mere, who has already experienced a number of funny incidents. As it happened, the advertisements of the workshop on social media as well as his appearance on the TV show Ringvaade appealed more to adults, including the older generation. Instead of students, Arvo Mere received e-mails and phone calls from elderly people wanting to participate after seeing the programme, while the participants were actually informed about the workshop by their teachers. According to Mere, the TV appearance also brought their team some publicity, so when he visited Tartu for professional reasons, he was asked about solar panel building instead.
A total of 18 young people can learn to make solar panels in TalTech workshops until spring. The supervisor of the workshop is Associate Professor Arvo Mere who is assisted by either Doctoral Student / Early Stage Researcher Robert Krautmann or Researcher Merike Kriisa. The workshop is part of the EU-funded ERA Chair project 5GSOLAR which offers upper secondary school students an opportunity to make their own personal solar panel for charging different devices – phones, power banks, smart watches, etc.