The topic "bioconomy is the motto of the science year 2020. It is about the transformation from a market economy based on oil to an economy based on renewable raw materials. Coal phase-out, climate change and scarce resources show that products based on petroleum are a discontinued model. But it is not easy to replace it. You read about tires made from lowen tooth milk and dubels made from castor oil. That sounds creative at first. But do such products have the properties they should have?? Is their production economical? Or is the mass production of such products not even the source of new problems?? Will we all be vegetarians in the future or will we eat insects and meat from test tubes?? Franziska assmann, isabell bernhart, jazlin devore, and chantal-sophie genzler, four tenth-graders at frobenius gymnasium in hammelburg, germany, were extremely successful in answering questions like these at the DECHEMAX competition. The competition, which is held throughout germany, is an initiative of DECHEMA gesellschaft fur chemische technik und biotechnologie e.V. Rough commitment, an even rougher thirst for knowledge and a lot of stamina were required to successfully complete the questions and experimental tasks in the two rounds of the competition.
Question of the week
From november 2019 to the end of january 2020, a new "question of the week" was posted every thursday on the DECHEMAX website around the competition theme. "This year there was a bonus question because the competition is celebrating its 20th anniversary", notes supervising teacher christine kreb. "The young researchers from the frobenius grammar school had until the following wednesday to find the answer." The team managed to answer the nine "questions of the week" to answer correctly and to the point. For example, the materials needed to build an environmentally friendly house or the negative consequences of meat consumption for the environment had to be discussed. It was investigated how soil fertility can be preserved or how washing and bleaching with biotechnology is possible and much more.
The second round was an experimental round. "Paper recycling was the topic of the frame, and it started right away with a frame: a scooping frame had to be built in order to scoop paper from a pulp of newsprint paper. From beet, carrots and carrot grun, the schoolgirls boiled colored brew with which to dye the paper. But not only that, the team also enjoyed experimenting: "we particularly liked the fact that, in addition to normal paper production, we also tried out napkins, flour and flower petals", reports chantal-sophie genzler.
But then came the school closures and the contact bans to contain the corona virus. The team is not discouraged by this.
"Fortunately, we started the experiment already at the beginning of march, so that even the school shift was not a big problem". We split the rest of the work, such as the ironing, coloring and writing of the documentation, and we were able to agree on everything via social media. So we were able to send the work in on time despite corona", explains isabell bernhart. In addition to the joint scientific work, an important social aspect was noted: "we have realized that in every experiment you need different devices. If one device is missing, the experiment does not work. It was the same in our team. If a team member was missing, the team was also missing an important part, without which the work would not have worked so well, jazlin devore is sure of it, and franziska assmann adds: "it was only as a team that we made it this far!"
This attitude and all the work have been rewarded: the team is one of the best nine in class 10 in germany. An outstanding result! In addition to the certificates, book prizes and magazine subscriptions now await the four researchers in the field of renewable raw materials.