Tallinn University of Technology

Until November 20, 2020, all pupils from Tallinn from grades 7 – 12 may register to the engineering contest Rakett 21 (Rocket 21), organized by Tallinn 21st School and TalTech. The contest, the participants of which have so far been mostly from the Tallinn 21st School, is introduced by Mattias Põldaru from the Institute of Civil Engineering and Architecture.

The main goal of the contest is popularizing engineering. Engineering may not be the choice for everyone, but we are hoping to bring this choice to the attention of pupils. The tasks of the competition include brain-cracking problems from robotics, mechatronics, road construction, heating and civil engineering and also from materials science and energetics. Choosing engineering as a study discipline may refer to a conscious future investment or simply to striving for an easier life. Whatever the reason, engineers as taxpayers with a higher salary will surely be valued in future society.

Pupils highly appreciate the workshops and tasks of the contest’s finale. “I could do everything by myself and experiment. The workshops were led by students who were very interested in the topics themselves, which created a great vibe,pupils have said. The contact with students and doctoral students organizing the tasks helps build a bridge between the pupils and the university, bringing things that may seem distant and impalpable closer to the participants.

For us, success of the event is achieved if a participant not only understands the engineering problem but also finds solutions to it. To achieve this, we focus on a small part of a real-life problem or present a simplified model of the problem, looking for the core solution. Finding solutions helps the participants build their confidence. We’re hoping that participating in the contest will also broaden their career choices and find applications for the knowledge acquired in STEM classes at school.

Although competing is not the primary purpose of the Rocket 21 project, we see this as a positive motivating factor. If participants can compare their results with friends or with their own previous performance, they are more eager to complete the tasks. The pupils also enjoyed the tasks of building rockets powered by a fertilizer “bomb“ and by a baking soda and vinegar “bomb“ at the workshops, even though only one rocket out of six exceeded the acceleration of gravity.

The Rocket 21 project has been an exciting challenge for the university. Many contestants have participated in workshops or in the competition in previous years as well, so using the same ideas in workshops is not an option. So we develop new tasks and workshops every year. The workshop ideas are tested together with the pupils. Not all workshops are perfect on the first try, but it is wonderful to see how the positive feedback from pupils encourages workshop and task developers to put more effort into their activities. The already tested working solutions can also be used on Open Door Days or at career fairs.

Due to the current cautionary situation, organizing workshops together with the Tallinn 21st School has been somewhat more difficult, but cooperation with Maarika Paun, the activity leader of the school, has been very flexible.

This year, the online contest and the final are open to pupil teams from all the schools in Tallinn. We are excited to see how many pupils will participate. The format of the contest is the following: all teams solve the tasks on Tuesday nights between 7 – 8 PM, which makes using outside knowledge as difficult as possible, considering that this is an online event. The teams can register to the contest by November 20 on the webpage rakett21.ee.