Little engineers.

Through the Tech4Kids programme, employees at the BMW Group’s Bavarian plants get primary-school children excited about building an electric car. The teachers are pretty impressed, too.

“I want to saw first!”, “What do I need this part for?”, “That doesn’t fit!” Today, for once, apprentices at BMW Group Plant Regensburg are not dealing with the leading-edge technology the company is usually associated with. That’s hardly surprising, since the questions they face come from eight-to-eleven-year-old pupils taking part in the BMW Group’s Tech4Kids project. The youngsters are confronted with an enormous challenge: building a wooden vehicle and – with the technical guidance of the apprentices – gradually transforming it into a small electric car. Throughout the schoolyear, they learn about “automotive development”. At the end of the year, they proudly present the resulting vehicle – a car that actually drives – to parents, classmates and teachers.

Tech4Kids is one of the BMW Group’s more recent projects. Launched four years ago at the Regensburg plant in Bavaria, its aim is to help schools provide education through practice-oriented learning, discovery and hands-on experience. Other BMW Group plants in Bavaria, like Landshut and Munich, now also offer Tech4Kids. Through this programme, several hundred schoolchildren a year (700 this school year already) gain a valuable insight into “real engineer work”. They can also look over the “big kids’” shoulders to see how an understanding of technology, science, environmental protection and sustainability can be put into practice.

“The children got to see an industrial production hall from the inside for the first time today. That, in itself, is a fascinating experience,” explains Barbara Merkl-Schosser, head teacher at a primary school in Landshut-Berg. “But they were most excited about being actively involved in the plant tour as a ‘quality inspector’. They were even shown how to operate one of the machines!” Peter Manhart, head of a primary school in Ergolding, outside of Landshut: “Children should have the chance to discover their strengths and interests at an early age. Science and technology play an important part in this.”

In the Tech4Kids programme, children not only earn a “tool licence” using a toolbox designed by teachers, but also show that they know how to handle a vice, a saw and a file, as well as understand simple technical concepts. During a visit to a BMW Group plant, the “young engineers” gain an insight into industrial production of cars, the use of robots and processing of modern materials. A specially produced film on the subject of sustainability introduces the children to the most important aspects of environmental protection in an easy-to-understand manner. Nevertheless, every year, the highlight is building the wooden cars, which the children are always proud to show off.

“Initiatives like Tech4Kids are designed to help teachers and work with them to introduce young people to the fascinating world of technology,” underlines Alexander Bergmann, head of HR at BMW Group Plant Regensburg. Heribert Stautner, the technical director of the Regensburg school board adds: “Giving our primary-school pupils a glimpse of the real world sparks their enthusiasm.”

The young participants would surely all agree.

Stephan Augustin