Xperimania - Year I

Faced with the lack of scientifically-educated young people, the major petrochemical producers in Europe entrusted Appe with the development of an educational programme geared at raising awareness of the benefits of petrochemistry and motivating young people for scientific education. This was the starting point of “Xperimania – From Molecules to Materials”, which was launched in the 27 EU members-states in September 2007. The dedicated website www.xperimania.net was available in 22 languages.

During 8 months, from October 2007 to May 2008, secondary school students aged 10 to 20 years old were invited to take part in a series of activities including the “Timeline of petrochemistry discoveries” and “Hands-on, fun and easy experiments” competitions.  The winners will be invited to a two-day trip to Brussels in October 2008 and will be rewarded by multimedia players in the prize ceremony organised at the Natural Science Museum, Europe’s largest Dinosaur Gallery. During the trip they will also have the unique opportunity to visit a major petrochemical research centre.

Online chats with industry experts

Besides the competitions, Xperimania I organised five online chats giving the students an opportunity to “talk” with industry experts on specific topics related to petrochemistry. One of the most controversial and challenging topics was “Petrochemistry: caring for the environment?”, attended by 15 European schools.  Whilst the public still expresses concerns on the possible impact of petrochemistry on the environment, tremendous efforts are being undertaken to position the petrochemical industry as a major contributor to climate change solutions, thanks to new technologies and stricter regulations limiting all emissions.  Innovation is the key, and more than ever before, petrochemical producers are striving to keep up to date on research and development.

Active participation in the competitions

The Xperimania activities were supported by inquiry-based methods, which have proved their efficiency in increasing pupils’ interest and teachers’ motivation.  With around 450 entries in the competitions, Xperimania succeeded to stimulate the scientific and analytical observation of approximately 1,000 students.

There was a massive contribution from the Eastern European countries (especially from Hungary, Romania, and Poland) representing two thirds of the entries compared to Western Europe.  However the contribution of Spain was also impressive with 101 submissions.

The jury of experts who decided on the winners was very impressed by the quality of the work and decided to award two special mentions in the Timeline category. Even though only 3 winners and three winning teams will be rewarded in both competitions, the Xperimania team wishes to congratulate all the participating teachers and students. The English summaries of the top submissions of both competitions are available to download as pdf-files.

Lessons learned

Some key lessons learned can be drawn up from an early survey conducted among the participating teachers. Based on the assumption that petrochemistry is a relatively new science, teachers indicated that 87 % of them considered that Xperimania provides an attractive learning environment for their students and 80 % of them changed their perception of petrochemistry and science careers during the project.

Whilst there were some constraints for some teachers/schools to take part in Xperimania due to school calendar, daily workload and technological infrastructure issues, 92 % of them confirmed their interest to participate in Xperimania II.

“This is a fascinating experience” concludes Pierre de Kettenis, Executive Director at Appe. 

“We at Appe are delighted to announce that the second year of the Xperimania educational programme will be launched early October 2008.  We feel confident that in a few years from now we’ll be able to measure the return on our investment in terms of attracting young talents into the European petrochemical industry.  There are many job opportunities waiting for them”.

Download here the summaries of the top submissions in the "Timeline of petrochemistry discoveries" and the "Hands-on, fun and easy experiments" -competitions (pdf, in English).