WRO Germany: Digitization in the time of COVID-19

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Working on solutions after cancelling physical events, Germany did a survey, which revealed that an online competition wasn’t the way to go. Instead, to keep community and sponsors engaged, they’ve announced a school prize. We talked to Markus Fleige, Chairman of the TECHNIK BEGEISTERT e.V. association.

What is the status in Germany?

All schools were closed mid March till May, where they have started to open a bit. But all physical events are cancelled until June/July. Our season is end of April till the end of June, so it has been impossible to host official WRO tournaments. The same goes for all regional events and the German final.

How have you handled the new reality?

We discussed pros and cons of different scenarios with our partners: How much should be cancelled, we’ve looked at different timelines and discussed other opportunities to engage.
We did a survey among teacher and parents which showed us, that the majority did not want to replace the normal regular category with an online competition. They were worried about how to deal with all the rules, cheating etc. In the end we cancelled everything. This was early April, where everyone should stay at home, not build in teams.

How do you keep the kids engaged?

Since we could only do online activities, we’ve asked kids to send video clips with ideas from home, and we will award the best video every month. Different topics every month. This way we also got content for social media, we had something to offer to keep our community engaged.

What are you doing for your sponsors?

To include our partners as well, we just announced a school prize with our premium partner IBM Germany and gold partner LEGO Education. The school award is called ‘GENIAL DIGITAL 2020’ – Digitization in times of the corona crisis. We’ve done a similar award before, but this year we honor a school that is handling the Corona crisis with the help of digital teaching and learning opportunities.  The goal is to make digital teaching ideas and learning offers visible to others. The winner will be honored in an online conference with our partners and the news shared on social media.

Is the German government promoting STEM?

The Ministry of Education has started initiative to ‘stay smart’. They publish joint projects for STEM activities you can do online, and we are a part of this with our online video initiative. I’m not sure if will get more kids to join this way, but it is good that our ministry cares about what kids can do at home. Home schooling is a very new topic in Germany, so with kids at home, and normal teaching not being possible, I’m sure other meaningful activities are welcome.

If you want to know more about WRO Germany’s school competition, information can be found on their website (use your browser to translate).

For inspiration, take a look at the video activity page.