Protecting nature with AI: Many "wow moments" at the MINT-EC Science Camp

How can technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) contribute to biodiversity and thus to nature conservation? And what contribution can each and every one of us make to a sustainable future? 22 young people from national and international schools in the MINT-EC Excellence School Network with a strong profile in mathematics, computer science, natural sciences and technology addressed these questions at TU Ilmenau. Together with experts from the university, they spent five days researching, among other things, how the protection of biodiversity can be supported by monitoring technologies.

Fünf junge Menschen mit Schmarphone schauen auf große Grashalme Pavel Chatterjee
During the MINT-EC Science Camp at TU Ilmenau, the students were also able to try out the Flora Incognita app for plant identification.

Developing a biodiversity monitoring demonstrator that uses auditory methods of frequency measurement and artificial intelligence (AI) to identify bird species, gather information about their type and distribution and collect the data obtained at a higher level - this was one of the tasks at the second MINT-EC Science Camp at the end of May at TU Ilmenau. "The prototype should be able to work autonomously in the future, be easy to replicate and use renewable energy," explains camp organizer Jenny Gramsch from the ProTELC - Pro Thueringian Engineering Life Cycle project:

The aim was to jointly explore the question of how modern technologies such as AI and IoT (Internet of Things), as well as acoustics, sensor technology and new types of energy generation and storage, can be reconciled with sustainability, nature conservation and biodiversity and how their benefits can be consciously exploited.

To this end, the young people also discussed theoretical concepts for increasing the occurrence of different species of animals and plants within an area and worked on a project on bird song recognition together with employees from the Fraunhofer IDMT and the InSignA performance center. They were supervised by dedicated scientists and students from TU Ilmenau. A supporting program with lectures, including from NABU Ilm-Kreis, a hike to the Lindenbergblick, a barbecue evening with a science talk on the topic of sustainability as well as campus and laboratory tours also offered insights into courses of study that contribute to overcoming the climate challenges.

All questions about studying answered

As a very nature-loving person, Adele from Winfriedschule Fulda deliberately chose the camp in Ilmenau - her second MINT-EC camp - months in advance:

'We gained insights into different dimensions of biodiversity and species conservation, but also learned about applied computer science, which I thought was very cool. For example, we were able to try out the Flora Incognita app. Our visit to the Fraunhofer IOSB-AST was also particularly exciting, where we were able to see underwater robots and even ride around in them ourselves.

Programming in particular was very challenging: "But the students and lecturers were also very supportive and answered all our questions about the course."

The first AI to run independently

For Marika from Friedrich-Wilhelm-Gymnasium in Cologne, the workshop in Ilmenau was her first MINT-EC camp: "I was mainly here for the modern technology part because I'm interested in computer science, and I learned a lot of new things." She is particularly proud that she was able to get her first AI to work independently at the camp.

When you fight your way through the 23rd error and it works in the end, that's just a great feeling! But it was also a super cool atmosphere here.

Adele agrees: "We really had a lot of wow moments here."

Anika from Landgraf-Ludwigs-Gymnasium in Giessen was recommended the camp by her teacher: "I'm really glad that I took part, especially because of the insights into species conservation. The programming part surprised me, but it also inspired me to get even more involved with the topic during the summer vacation." She also enjoyed getting to know the soldering right at the beginning, supervised by students from TU Ilmenau:

The exchange with the students gives you the opportunity to learn how a degree course works and that you also have to work on your frustration tolerance, for example.

Leon from the Weidigschule in Butzbach adds: "The programming was tough at first, but we slowly got to grips with it. The lectures were also great. But above all, the community was great: everyone was just really nice to us."

Forming the personality

One person who has already taken part in many camps of this kind is student Jan. As a MINT-EC alumnus, he traveled from Karlsruhe to help supervise the Ilmenau camp:

When you're put in a room with 20 strangers on the first day and have to introduce yourself, you learn how to present yourself and approach people. That was very personality-building for me at the time and influenced me in my choice of degree course and place of study.

Antonella was also selected by her school, the German School Quito in Ecuador, from several applicants for the MINT-EC camp in Ilmenau. She even had her plane ticket to Germany paid for to attend the camp, as did Ayet and Mehmet from Istanbul and Adam from Washington: "Ilmenau is very small, but very beautiful, and the people here are all very nice." She can also imagine studying engineering or natural sciences in order to contribute to the preservation of biodiversity and climate protection: "I love biology and chemistry, and maybe that's what I'd like to study later."

Further orientation offers at the Young Researchers' Days in July

Do you have your school-leaving certificate on your desk and are still undecided about what to do next?

At the Young Researcher Days in July 2024, you can also work on exciting topics in various workshops, gain insights into laboratories and talk to lecturers and students.

Click here for an overview of all dates and offers.

Contact us

Jenny Gramsch

Koordinatorin ProTELC - Pro Thueringian Engineering Life Cycle