DFG funds mobile game on quantum physics with 100.000 euros
Credit: Philipp Stollenmayer
Quantum physics with a cat: The Würzburg-Dresden Cluster of Excellence ct.qmat-Complexity and Topology in Quantum Matter takes an unusual approach to attracting new talents. To get children and young people interested in the topic of quantum physics, the research alliance is developing an entertaining mobile game that is intended to be played around the world. Based on a popular quantum mechanics thought experiment by Erwin Schrödinger, the players accompany “their” cat through a crazy quantum world and solve attractive brainteasers along the way. The aim is to spark interest in girls in particular for study options in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM ) in a playful way. This innovative project has now been awarded €100,000 in the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft’s (DFG, German Research Foundation) 2020 International Research Marketing Ideas Competition.
A joy with STEM instead frustration with physics
The Cluster of Excellence ct.qmat-a joint project of Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg and Technische Universität Dresden-is addressing with this mobile game a very young target group that is clearly outside the university context: “The children and teenagers we want to reach are between 11 and 14 years old and thus in their sixth to ninth year of schooling. This is when most of the students have their first physics class. But far too few of them are enthusiastic about the subject and continue to study and enjoy it until their high-school diploma (Abitur). Exploring the world with curiosity is often lost in the tightly scheduled school routine. As a result, the physics communityloses scientists, quantum researchers and Nobel Prize winners of tomorrow”, states Professor Ralph Claessen, spokesperson of the Würzburg branch of the cluster.
Attracting females to quantum physics
“The much-vaunted shortage of skilled workers also affects science, especially basic scientific subjects. Physics is one of the disciplines in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) with a particularly low proportion of women. That is why our activities in the search for the best minds focus primarily on attracting young women”,adds Professor Matthias Vojta, spokesperson of the Dresden branch of the cluster.
Excitement, fun and “coolness” factor
The mobile game is intended to turn physics, and quantum physics in particular, into a “cool thing” that can be experienced and, at the same time, to convey knowledge, that is the objective of the cluster researchers. For this purpose, research content is transformed into a digital game environment, with the focus on fun. The players immerse themselves in a visually appealing quantum world with its unique, strange laws. They solve exciting puzzles and at the same time personalize their appealing game character. Optional background information, for example on “Schrödinger’s cat”, is provided in a popular science format. With the animal in the box, which is alive and dead at the same time, the physicist and science theorist Erwin Schrödinger created in 1935 a much-cited symbol for the principle of quantum mechanics: Objects can be in different, actually mutually exclusive states at the same time (“superposition”).
The development of the mobile game on quantum physics will be funded by the DFG from May 2021 through September 2022. The International Research Marketing Award is financed in the context of the “Research in Germany” initiative with special funds from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The Ideas Competition 2020 was the fifth and, for the time being, last call for proposals of this kind. Four projects were awarded 100,000 euros and four ones 25,000 euros each.
Cluster of Excellence ct.qmat
The Cluster of Excellence ct.qmat-Complexity and Topology in Quantum Matter is a joint research collaboration by Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg and Technische Universität (TU) Dresden since 2019. More than 250 scientists from 33 countries and four continents perform research on topological quantum materials that reveal surprising phenomena under extreme conditions such as ultra-low temperature, high pressure, or strong magnetic field. Making these special properties usable under everyday conditions will be the basis for revolutionary quantum chips and new types of technical applications. The Cluster of Excellence is funded within Excellence Strategy of the federal and state governments.