EPFL Summer school: An electrifying experience!

© 2021 EPFL

© 2021 EPFL

Nearly 130 high school students chose to kick-start their summer by taking part in the summer schools held on the EPFL campus. These pre-college sessions are run every year by the Education Outreach Department, which works closely with a number of partners to give students a unique opportunity to discover EPFL and to develop additional skills in science and engineering.

For students with a passion for the sciences, there were plenty of EPFL Summer Schools sessions to pick from. With courses on general relativity, mobile robotics, scientific programming, simulations of behavior of matter, and truth tables, it wasn't an easy choice to make!

Regardless of the field they chose, the Summer Schools helped participants to create a clear link between theory and practice, in particular through group projects and unique experiences, such as a visit to the CROCUS experimental nuclear reactor, which was arranged during the general relativity week.

I already knew a bit about theory, but the Summer School gave me the concrete mathematical concepts I needed to refine my understanding.

Adrien, student at Beaulieu High School in Lausanne

Alongside the math week, which looked at the sorts of truth tables used to help calculators run, the students had the incredible opportunity to take part in building a giant calculator made from dominoes, using around 3500 of them to create a structure including OR, AND, and XOR logic gates.

The material covered during the Summer Schools is complex and the courses are intensive. By the end, the students were delighted with how much progress they’d been able to make during the week: “It was a bit fast to begin with, but I'd really got into the rhythm by the middle of the week!” said Timon from Thoune High School, who attended the Nature, in Code week. Simona, from Schaffhouse High School, registered for the General Relativity course and describes how, after a difficult start, everything suddenly clicked into place:

The best moment of the week for me was when I realized I was able to explain something I'd learned to the other students in my group.

Simona, student at Schaffhouse High School

The teaching teams who led the EPFL Summer Schools were just as enthusiastic as the students:

It was an electrifying week! I thoroughly enjoyed being able to think about and talk about physics all week long!

Dr Nicolas Michel, physics teacher at a high school in Vaud, and EPFL alumnus

For Dr David Strütt, who created the math Summer School together with Dr Orane Pouchon, these pre-college weeks represent a unique professional opportunity for the teaching staff: “These Summer Schools are a chance for us to enjoy a one-of-a-kind experience and to dive back into topics that we’ve always been passionate about. We want to use these events to encourage young people to consider taking STEM courses”.

For the students, the Summer Schools also provide an opportunity to get their bearings on EPFL’s huge campus, to speak in various languages with other students from other areas of Switzerland and—who knows?—to make friends who they can look forward to seeing again when they start their undergraduate course together at EPFL.

By bringing young people together from all parts of the country—in particular through a week dedicated to the STEM class at the Gymnasium Lerbermatt in Köniz—the Summer Schools also foster national unity, offering German- and Italian-speaking students an immersion experience at EPFL.