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‘The time to prepare our children is now!’

To make a success of a major project like the Einstein Telescope (ET), you need to start with the young, says Gène Bertrand, programme manager at the Discovery Museum in Kerkrade (NL). In the 2024–2025 school year, the Discovery Museum will be opening an Einstein Telescope Education Centre (ETEC). Secondary-school students and other interested parties will be taken into the world of the ET through exhibits, demonstrations and tests.

“The Discovery Museum is a partner of the Dutch Black Hole Consortium,” Gène explains. “This consortium unites a large number of institutions and businesses that are working together to arrive at a better understanding of black holes – the most extreme and mysterious objects in the universe. Besides fundamental natural science research, the consortium focuses on promoting public understanding of modern natural science. The Discovery Museum is taking the lead on this, together with the Boerhaave science museum in Leiden.”

Beeld: Jonathan Vos Photography
Gène Bertrand at thet Discovery Museum Kerkrade. Images: Jonathan Vos Photography

Bringing science closer

“At the Discovery Museum, we turn complex scientific topics into understandable projects. Above all, we want to show why something matters to us humans, why it affects you and me. In that way, we aim to bring science closer. The ET is incredibly fascinating and lends itself well to this. We previously created an online video series and a travelling exhibition, and we devote attention to the ET in our permanent exhibition. We’re also working on a film for the Earth Theatre, our 3D multimedia theatre, which takes you into the world of black holes and gravitational waves. It’s great that we’ll soon be able to highlight even more aspects of the ET with the ETEC.”

Four floors

The ETEC will be aimed mainly at students in the upper years of secondary school who are specialising in Nature & Technology or Nature & Health. Gène takes us through the plans: “We’re equipping four floors in the Cube building for the ETEC. One floor will feature an exhibition that answers questions such as ‘What are black holes?’, ‘How can we use gravity waves to measure the origin of the universe?’, and ‘What role does the ET play in all of this?’ There’ll also be a Gravity Lab where students can do practical experiments. In the Gravity Studio, they’ll be able to turn what they’ve learned into multimedia presentations, from TikTok videos to podcasts. And finally, there’ll be a meeting place where events can take place: the Gravity Forum.”

The education centre is currently in the process of development. “We aim to offer what’s needed. The challenge is to motivate children to take things further without scaring them off. For the actual content, we’re working closely with partners, Including researchers from Maastricht University and the Dutch National Institute for Subatomic Physics (Nikhef), but also with secondary-school teachers. Together with those parties, we’ll unravel the complexities of the ET and turn it into exciting and enjoyable moments of action.”

Gène Bertrand van het Discovery Museum Kerkrade. Beeld: Jonathan Vos Photography

“We’ll unravel the complexities and turn it into exciting and enjoyable moments of action.”

Gène Bertrand

Planting the seed

Gène: “If the decision is taken to construct the ET here, it’ll really put our region on the map – I’m convinced of that. The ET won’t just give a boost to the science agenda, it’ll provide numerous opportunities for training and research as well. It’s also an important development when you consider employment and cooperation in the Euregio. But a prerequisite for success is that we get young people involved. If the decision is made to construct the ET here, we’re now some 10 years ahead of it starting operation. So the time to prepare our children is now! After all, if you plant that seed now, they may well choose an education in that field and not leave the region.”

The ETEC will be opening in September 2024. “Secondary-school students are the main target group,” says Gène, “but we’ll also open the ETEC once a month to other interested parties.”

You can view the video series that the Discovery Museum made about the ET on YouTube (Dutch).

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