12 multicultural teams, made up of young talents from 35 different nationalities and coming from more than 45 European universities, challenged each other in Trento, from 8 to 17 July, during the TOP STARS 2019 Summer School - innovaTion challenge fOr PhD STudents And ReSearchers, held at the "Fabio Ferrari" Scientific and Technological Hub of the University of Trento, and organized by the Department of Industrial Engineering. The Summer School saw the participation of 50 PhDs and young researchers, as well as some Masters students admitted for their particularly brilliant curriculum.
TOP STARS Summer School, which is part of the innovation and entrepreneurship (I&E) educational component of of the KIC EIT RawMaterials, offered doctoral students and young researchers, who usually act individually on tasks that already have a line of well-defined research but which are not necessarily related to market challenges and opportunities, a unique learning experience, teaching them to fully perceive the value of new ideas and the interdependence of market needs with research focus, which often it is still missing. In the industrial world we face daily challenges and social problems, which must be solved with a pioneering multidisciplinary approach. The innovative answers are the only ones able to guarantee recognition and career opportunities.
The goal of the school was the strengthening of the specific entrepreneurial skills of the individual participants, from the idea to a clear proposal to the company. Six industrial partners were involved for this edition of TOP STARS, including major companies in the Trentino region such as La Galvanica Trentina, a leading company in the field of electrochemical metal treatments, Salvadori, a consolidated international business reality with a specific structure dedicated to consulting, design and worldwide implementation of technologies for the recycling and recovery of discarded tires, Innovando, a company in strong growth focused on new technologies, and Green Energy Storage, a cutting-edge startup in storage system technology to provide innovative and clean solutions for energy, plus two large multinationals such as IMERYS, a world leader in the supply of high-tech, high-performance products based on graphite and carbon, and TATA Steel Europe, the second largest steel producer in Europe.
The challenges proposed by the companies were introduced through presentations, tutorials and workshops, to exploit the know-how possessed by the participants, while providing them with the additional tools that would allow them to propose solutions to industrial problems in a effective and business-oriented way, in a competition between teams for the launch of their business.
We want to propose this time a different point of view, through the testimony of Ana Luiza C. B. de Carvalho, who participated in this third edition of the school. Ana Luiza C. B. de Carvalho is a mining engineer with experience in different areas of mineral processing engineering. Her professional career is focused on researching and teaching. Since 2019 she is a researcher assistent at TU Clausthal (Germany), working on the SULTAN (European Training Network for the Remediation and Reprocessing of Sulfidic Mining Waste Sites) project with a research focused on the agglomeration of fine-grained particles to improve flotation:
"If you are European, perhaps you are already familiar with Summer Schools, but if you are from another part of the world, maybe you are hearing this term for the first time. Summer Schools tend to be interdisciplinary courses, which mean that you will meet people who work in the same area as you (you will be able to exchange information on research), and you can also work with people from different backgrounds (an excellent opportunity to expand your network).
My name is Ana Luiza, I am Brazilian, and I am currently a PhD student at TU Clausthal, in Germany. My research area is mineral processing. Today I want to inspire you to do something out of your comfort zone, as I did when I applied to attend a Summer School. If you are European, perhaps you are already familiar with Summer Schools, but if you are from another part of the world, maybe you are hearing this term for the first time, just like me, a few months ago. Things changed when a co-worker commented that she had attended a Summer School last year and it was a great experience. After talking to her, I decided to get more information about it and I must confess that I found this idea challenging but, at the same time, also exciting! So, at the end of the day, I ended up applying for the TOPSTARS Summer School in Trento, Italy.
After living this experience, I am here to share my experience and encourage you to do the same! But first of all, WHAT IS A SUMMER SCHOOL? If you search on the Internet for Summer Schools you will find that Summer Schools are short courses offered by universities (mainly in Europe), during the period of summer vacations of students. The courses can be designed for bachelor´s, master´s or PhD students (you earn credit points for your academic performance) and offered in any area of knowledge. Summer Schools tend to be interdisciplinary courses, which mean that you will meet people who work in the same area as you (you will be able to exchange information on research), and you can also work with people from different backgrounds (an excellent opportunity to expand your network). TOPSTARS Summer School, for example, was a multidisciplinar school, so very different to my background of minerals processing and it was amazing! Summer Schools aim to attract local and foreign students, that means, you can travel to another country, learn a little more about another culture and visit towns and incredible sceneries, not to mention taste local cuisine. Taking my case as an example: I live in Germany, in a city that is cold during almost the whole year, and I attended a Summer School in Italy, in a city that, besides its beauty, reminded me of the 35 degree heat that is very common in Brazil.
Summer Schools often involve the participation of companies, that means they can put you in contact with people who work at companies of your interest, with the great advantage of having this first contact in a more informal environment than normally would happen. Excellent, no? In TOP STARS, for example, there were 6 companies involved and each one presented a challenge they were facing, to be solved by us during the course. The course lasted 10 days and sought to develop skills that, combined with our technical expertise, would lead us to propose an innovative solution to the challenges. To serve as a basis for finding solutions, several lectures were held by renowned professors from the host university and partner universities. In addition to the the lectures, we had the support of mentors from different areas (business, technical, innovation) and representatives of companies, both always available to offer their help. We were totally immersed in the challenge, searching for a solution to a real problem, and I would say that attending a Summer School is just that: immersing yourself in a parallel universe. During the days of the course, it was as if there was nothing more important for any of us than that. Solving those problems had become our "life goal". However, life is not just about work. As the saying goes: work hard, play hard! So Summer Schools also create moments of fun, so you can relax a little, interact with each other and recharge your batteries. In my experience, for example, we had a very pleasant evening at the edge of a Lake, where we sailed, played volleyball, danced. All of this, of course, was powered by a lot of pizza, after all, we were in Italy! We also had, on another evening, a guided tour of a museum and an amazing dinner in a castle! That makes it easier to engage, don't you think? I confess that this experience exceeded my expectations, developing both my professional skills and very useful soft skills for group work. It also made me exceed my own expectations, to go beyond what I thought I was capable of. To make the most of the experience of attending a Summer School, I would say that it is important that you have flexibility in your way of working, an open mind to listen and discuss different opinions, and, last but not least, that you have a great desire to be there! It will never be as good as it could be if you are not fully involved! So go ahead and give your best, get your hands dirty! You will see that getting out of your comfort zone can be fun!"