Copyright photo: KOGEKA

Mol, 3 June 2016: Today, comprehensive school KOGEKA (Catholic Education Geel-Kasterlee) and VITO completed the overall STEM project on geothermal energy. Throughout the school year, 17 Antwerp and Limburg schools worked on several STEM projects on geothermal energy. These resulted in a scale model of the Kempen subsurface, the visualisation of a heat grid on an aerial map of Mol and Geel, an educational video game, models etc. These are all fascinating examples of contemporary education on a future-oriented technology, that, in the near future, can be a part of the everyday lives of the students of today, the adults of tomorrow.

The initiators organised a presentation of the realisations and debated about the highlights of 1 year STEM and geothermal energy, and also about the future prospects. Moderator Pascal Paepen guided Ludwig Caluwé, Deputy for Economy of the Province of Antwerp, Danny Van der Veken, Coordinating Director KOGEKA, Swa De Schutter, Manager InnEd and VITO Coordinator STEM, and Dirk Fransaer, Managing director VITO, through the cross-fertilisation of renewable energy production, circular economy and future-oriented education.

Ludwig Caluwé, Deputy for Economy and Innovation of the Province of Antwerp: “Geothermal energy will play an important role in the economic development of our province and will play a pioneering role within the changing Flemish energy landscape.

With the 1 580 students who visited the geothermal energy drilling site since November, we far exceed our initial target of 1 000. A fully operational geothermal energy plant could be the fourth largest in Europe, and therefore extremely important for our future generations. By introducing students to the energy production of the future, VITO, Voka Kempen, GoodPlanet and the Province of Antwerp want to encourage young people to study engineering. With interesting projects and actions, the Province of Antwerp is making strenuous efforts to fascinate as many young people with science and technology.”

“For the education system, it was a godsend that VITO decided to involve the schools in this new technology, right from the start of the exploratory drilling on the Balmatt site”, says Danny Van der Veken, Coordinating Director of KOGEKA. “Students were given the opportunity to get to know geothermal energy in all its aspects, right on the spot where, until a few years ago, a traditional coal plant was operational, and near a nuclear reactor that is still active. A better reference point to tell a comprehensive story about the past, present and future of the energy production, about ecology and economy and about geology and sustainability, is difficult to imagine. Add to that the innovative techniques of deep drilling, geothermal energy plants and heat grids, and you have an ideal breeding ground for lifelike STEM projects to challenge students to study a contemporary theme. 17 schools from the Antwerp and Limburg Kempen have already committed themselves an entire school year long, resulting in outstanding achievements showcased today.”

Initiator and inspirer, Swa De Schutter, Manager InnEd and VITO coordinator STEM: “For VITO, this was a unique collaboration! At the beginning we did not know how far this could go. But looking back at all the things that have been realised in the last year, we can only conclude that this has exceeded our expectations. This is largely due to the enthusiasm and voluntarism of the different schools who have picked up the initiative. We were not only able to support initiatives at schools, but we could also rely on the schools for the events VITO organised that do not easily fit into a school calendar. One of the highlights was a dance theatre on geothermal energy for and by students in the first grade of secondary education. This was an incredibly exciting creative confrontation between science and culture, inspiring more than 3 000 students and adults.”

“As a member of the STEM platform Flanders and the functioning of VITO, I find STEM and the emphasis on STEM in education very important. With the project on geothermal energy we want to demonstrate that STEM is not just about great scientific – geological – knowledge, but also about daily technical issues, from heating homes to realising deep drillings. The creation of a green energy source is a bonus”, says Dirk Fransaer as Managing director of VITO. “With STEM and geothermal energy we have created new ambassadors of green energy, who are extra motivated to focus on geothermal energy to realise the climate goals.”

Finally, in a video message, Hilde Crevits, Flemish Minister for Education, explained why the Flemish government decided to support this project: “With this project, KOGEKA and VITO have pointed out the importance of science and technology in a very concrete way and with the direct involvement of young people. Both for solving the energy and climate issues, and the extra jobs that these sustainable technology solutions entail. This allows them to key into the living environment of young people and to fuel their passion for STEM.”

More info on STEM and geothermal energy

Swa De Schutter
Manager Inned

Pictures of the event

Geert Vandecruys

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