Many countries are facing a shortage of STEM students, specialists and engineers. To boost innovation and value-driven growth, we must find effective solutions to promote the STEM field in students and fulfil this demand. In Estonia, there is one solution that works well – an educational TV science contest.
Estonia has built one of the most efficient and comprehensive solutions to promote the field with a Rakett 69 (Rocket 69) TV show format. “Rocket69 “is an educational and entertaining TV science contest for students established in 2011. The show marked its 12th season in the Estonian National Broadcasting this year. The aim of the show and other communications activities is to make complex subjects more life-true and relatable, but at the same time inspiring and motivating as a career path. The show’s name is inspired by the fact that the first steps on the Moon were made in 1969.
The best get into the TV show
All students starting from age 15 can apply for the show. Fifteen of the best contestants are chosen through casting for the TV show based on their performance in fact-based knowledge and practical skills tests. The first half of the season focuses on teamwork. The contestants are divided into three teams in which they solve two science tasks. Two contestants from the losing team determine the dropout of the show in a one-to-one science duel. All assignments require creativity, theoretical and scientific knowledge and the ability to use it in practice.
In the second half of the season, the students compete individually. In the Grand Finale, two of the best students have to solve a complex assignment that will show all their abilities by building the Rube Goldberg machine. The winner of the season wins a EUR 10.000 scholarship in addition to prices from the cooperation partners of the show.
The tasks solved in each episode are created in a determined topic of science ranging from electronics to robotics and chemistry. Most tasks are created in collaboration with technology companies, which face those problems daily. The judges of the show are known researchers and engineers in Estonia.
Useful materials for STEM teachers
The science competition is not only a TV show but offers a wide range of science communication and popularisation tools that can be used in different channels and goals. The show provides a voice-over explanation of the problems and solutions solved in the show that can be used as STEM teaching material at school. To make it easier for teachers to use the materials at schools, the videos are integrated with different subjects in the e-school system.
The reach of the TV show is broad and reaches students efficiently, but also teachers and a wider audience in Estonia. Due to this, the popularity and awareness of career opportunities in STEM are growing yearly.
The work of more than ten years has contributed significantly to the popularity of STEM. Every third student is obtaining a higher education in the STEM field. Moreover, a science barometer done in Estonia in 2020 determined that the overall trust in science and scientists is very high, reaching up to 78%. Two third of the population shared that the “Rocket69” show is the most relevant science exposure for them. This shows that the long-term strategy of making science relatable affects various audiences.
The full version of the article by Mare Vahtre from Estonian Research Council was published first on the webpage of Research Estonia.