Hochschulwettbewerb 2013

Students raising their hands.

Monday 04.01.16

The Future of Human Being in Tartu

While the most of the participants of the 2013-14 EUSP round have already graduated from high school and moved on to another exciting challenges, the spirit of the project still lives on in Tartu, waiting for the new round to begin. Therefore, it seems only fitting that in February 2016, the scientific capital of Estonia will host another bunch of eager youngsters with ground-breaking ideas! This time, they’ll discuss and debate the future of the human being – possibly even themselves.

So Far, So Good

On 25-27 September 2013, 63 students from Tartu came together to make their hometown a better place to live. We had participants from eight different high schools (out of the total nine in Tartu) and let them choose between five different committees. Each committee focused on a different subject: urban resources, energy-efficient buildings, civil participation, smart cities and urban population. Since there is a noticeable Russian-speaking population living Estonia, we offered a chance to participate for both Estonian and Russian schools.

The participants were truly creative and offered numerous inspiring ideas that could definitely raise the quality of life for the citizens of Tartu, regardless of their age or profession. One of the main concerns was public transport. The ideas and suggestions ranged from more sustainable bus network to more environmentally friendly alternatives to motor vehicles. For example, many participants thought that Tartu and its inhabitants would greatly benefit from bicycle renting services (which were virtually non-existent in Tartu), or more “eco-friendly” buses.

The ideas that got the most votes from the committees were also submitted to the Tartu City Government. We hope that when, shortly thereafter, the government announced that the whole bus network of the town was going to be replaced by biogas-fuelled vehicles, this decision was influenced by the suggestions of our young “politicians” as well :)

Before moving on to the upcoming parliament, here’s a brief reminder of our topics and experts in 2013:

  • Join in and be part - civil participation in the city. Mart Hiob (Artes Terrae Ltd., chief executive officer and leader of Supilinna community)
  • Demography in the city. Tiit Tammaru (University of Tartu, Professor of urban and demographic geography)
  • Resources in the city: skyfarming & urban gardening. Terje Ong (Tajuruum Ltd., director, landscape designer and architect)
  • Energy efficient houses and flats. Martin Kikas (Tartu Regional Energy Agency, director, professor of bioenergy)
  • Smart city: life in an urban network. Hannes Astok (SmartCityLab, development director).

What’s Happening Now?

The dates have been set – and this is where the serious work (i.e. fun) begins! The parliament will take place from 18th to 20th February in the Estonian Ministry of Education and Science and Science Centre AHHAA. We plan to involve 60-70 students and this time encourage people from outside the Tartu city area to take part as well.

We’re especially excited about this year’s topics, because a brand new centre of synthetic biology will soon be opened in Tartu – and some of their researchers have already agreed to be experts at this year’s parliament! We’re also glad to have the team of Intelligent Materials and Systems Laboratory, University of Tartu, on board. Their expertise ranges from module homes suitable for colonising Mars, to artificial muscles that could charge the cell phone in your pocket! We haven’t confirmed all of the experts yet, but it looks really promising.

To make the parliament sessions even more exclusive – and also, more lifelike – we’re going to have the final hearing at night. It is quite common for the hearings of the real Estonian Parliament to last until the early hours of the morning. So, before heading for the big politics, we’d like to give our young MP’s an insight to the “real life” of parliament politicians!

As we’ve already expressed several times – we’re very excited for this year’s student parliament, and hope that the students, experts and moderators are too. When we organised the first EUSP round, it felt like there couldn’t have been a better topic than the future of our city, as Tartu is a scientific hub of Estonia, with lots of emerging start-ups and inspiring, innovative people. Now, the subject of the future of the human being seems even more fitting, with the new synthetic biology centre being established, and the research that has already been done. EUSP 2015-16, here we come.

Authors: Annika Vesselov and Kai Kaljumäe, Science Centre AHHAA Foundation, Tartu, Estonia