15 years zdi | 2012 – ERDF-zdi: Strong corporate and educational partners in the zdi community

Together we are strong! - Many projects and offers for students in the zdi community are the result of cooperation with companies, universities or other educational institutions in the regions.
zdi is committed to ensuring that even more young people aspire to a MINT job or a MINT degree. This is also in the interests of business and science in NRW, because young people are urgently needed there.
And here comes ERDF zdi in the game! Because the funding program of the European Union provides funding for the work that is necessary to establish sustainable cooperation.

Werner Pfeifenroth from the zdi regional office has been in charge of ERDF-zdi from the start. “Anchoring zdi in the regional economy is a central challenge. With funds from ERDF-zdi, a large number of zdi networks have succeeded in finding business partners and jointly developing and implementing MINT offers for young people," notes Pfeifenroth. He has two projects in mind in particular.

Financing of cooperation with companies in the Bergisch city triangle

The first pillar of ERDF-zdi is the systematic, sustainable and substantial involvement of small and medium-sized companies in the content and organizational work of zdi networks to secure skilled workers. 
A particularly successful example is the established business cooperation of the zdi center BeST Bergisches Schul-Technikum. The zdi center BeST has always relied on strong cooperation with companies. When it submitted its first ERDF-zdi application in 2013, it had eight corporate partners on board. During the eight-month project period, the center contacted 150 regional companies. This resulted in a partnership with currently 30 companies and 50 partner institutions such as the fire brigade or the regional mechanical engineering network.

Corporate partnerships become permanent - a win-win situation!

The acquisition of companies was flanked by extensive marketing measures, including advertising and PR materials such as flyers, banners, a trade fair stand and a press kit. In addition, a website has been created that explains the advantages of cooperation to companies.

Sarah-Lena Debus, the coordinator of the zdi center BeST, has been there from the start. "Through ERDF we have achieved the long-awaited breakthrough in the Bergisch region," she says. “We were able to significantly increase our profile, particularly through the close cooperation with the business development agencies of the three Bergisch towns, and as a result we have experienced a huge increase in partner companies. In addition, the ERDF project has opened the doors to the training companies in the Bergisch region. Many of the jointly developed projects have become established and are regularly offered at least once a year to a group of volunteer students.”

The tenth anniversary celebration in 2018 clearly underlined the strong cohesion of all partners in the Bergisch city triangle - a real win-win situation. Here it goes to YouTube video.
These are some of the successful cooperation projects with regional companies and offers for schoolchildren:
• Vorwerk Elektrowerke GmbH & Co. KG offers the course, among other things “From sheet metal to autonomous robot” 
• Gebr. Becker GmbH with its offer "Rocket racers conquer the race track - develop your own drag racer"
• Wiesemann & Theis GmbH offers the course in the area of ​​hardware programming "Python Tames Raspberry"

Gebr. Becker GmbH presents its training opportunities to students

Extracurricular place of learning in the district of Wesel –
The FabLab Kamp-Lintfort specializes in 3D printing 

The second pillar of ERDF-zdi is the promotion of extracurricular places of learning, such as student laboratories. This creates high-quality rooms for experimenting and handicrafts. These institutions are often located at universities or vocational colleges. This has the advantage that the students have competent professional support during the measures and get a first impression of studying or vocational training. 

In 2013, the Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences received over 200.000 euros in ERDF funding to set up a FabLab. goal of the project zdi-FabLab@school was and still is to integrate the future technology 3D printing in the schools of the Wesel district. “Opened in 2015, it is now one of the largest FabLabs in the world. It has state-of-the-art equipment of digital manufacturing technologies. In addition, it has become a reference model for many schools, which are now setting up their own makerspaces," summarizes Dr. Martin Kreymann, coordinator of the zdi center Kamp-Lintfort and manager of the FabLab.

3D printing generates great interest among students and teachers

Pupils from the comprehensive school in Wesel were visitors and inventors from the very beginning FabLab Kamp-Lintfort. In 2015 they built their own 3D printer and then took it to school, where it is still used today. There is now even a second self-made printer. Technology teacher Bernd Maaßen is convinced of the pedagogical effect of 3D printing: “The 3D printers always arouse great interest among the students. From my point of view, it is an absolutely suitable instrument to promote enthusiasm for STEM".

Over 1.000 students with over 20.000 participant hours have so far taken part in workshops and events in the FabLab Kamp-Lintfort. All schools are invited to participate. The Düsseldorf district government also uses the possibilities and know-how of the FabLab for its certificate courses in technology at secondary level 1 and 2 to qualify new specialist teachers. Cooperation with state teacher training has also proven particularly successful. More than 350 teachers from all school types attended events to familiarize themselves with the possibilities of digital manufacturing processes and their use in schools. 

The outside of the FabLab Kamp-Lintfort
Pupils from the comprehensive school in Wesel build their own 3D printer

Now the FabLab is expanding its spectrum. Since May 2019, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia has been funding the zdi school laboratory using funds from the European Regional Development Fund 2014-2020 "Green FabLab" at the Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences. This workshop for digital production is an ideal addition to the FabLab Kamp-Lintfort for the areas of agriculture, environmental and energy management. Official opening is in summer 2020.

ERDF-zdi • Example from the district of Mettmann

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