It is never too soon to start working independently. At TU Berlin, students with ideas for their own projects have the chance to study independent of professors and lecturers. Project laboratories and tu projects address aspects of sustainability not yet covered in the standard teaching program. The special thing about TU Berlin´s project laboratories: Sustainability is not just the teaching content, it is the very essence of the concept. It it is often possible to integrate certain elements and concepts which have proven particularly successful over the four semesters of a project into TU Berlin´s regular teaching program.
The wide range of topics researched by students in project laboratories/tu projects in recent years includes: NaWaRo-Fahrrad (which stands for regional renewable raw materials on two wheels), electromobility, German courses in a box (with learning material literally presented in a box), and communal building. The basic principle is a simple one: The idea for a new teaching project is developed by the students themselves and presented in an application. Four essential conditions have to be fulfilled: The topic cannot already be part of TU Berlin´s “normal” teaching program. The didactic approach must present an alternative to that in the existing teaching program. The project has to be ecologically or socially beneficial and adopt an interdisciplinary approach, with one academic chair supervising the content and the organization.
If their project fulfills these conditions, students from all universities and degree programs, no matter what semester they are in, can submit an application to the vice president for education, digitalization, and sustainability at TU Berlin. The Center for Scientific Continuing Education and Cooperation/kubus (the University´s center for advice on environmental issues) advises and supports students with the submission of their applications. It also helps students with quality assurance and the evaluation of the program. If an application is approved, the project receives financial support for a period of two years to employ tutors and run the the project. And then everything is ready to start!
This is one of the many things tried out by Catherina Clausnitzer, Nhu Anh Nguyen, Sophia Kunze and Maria Emmerich, founders of the “creative biogas lab” tu project and tutors in the program. The project was supervised by Professor Dr. Peter Neubauer and Dr. Stefan Junne from the Chair of Bioprocess Engineering. Working together with the students, their goal was to explore biogas technology as a renewable energy form as well as its potential for sustainable integration into regional closed energy circuits. In addition, the students, who come from a wide range of degree programs, constructed a mini biogas facility for processing organic waste on the site of the nature protection center in Berlin-Marienfelde. The facility was operated over the summer. The use of a range of measuring devices and data analysis enabled the students to optimize the production of biogas. They also organized various workshops, field trips and even a sustainability event for children. A satisfying conclusion to the project: A round of espressos for everyone – sustainably prepared using biogas from their own facility.