In our interview, STIHL apprentice and “Jugend forscht”* winner Patrick Ziesel talks about how his invention came to be and what he has experienced since winning the national competition.
*) ”Jugend forscht” is Germany’s best-known competition for up-and-coming researchers. It aims to get young people interested in mathematics, computer science, natural sciences and technology while finding and nurturing talent. More than 100 competitions are held throughout Germany each year. Young people from the fourth year of school to the age of 21 may enter. Participants focus on a topic of their choice for their research projects.
Hello, Mr Ziesel, you are an apprentice at STIHL. Together with Joshua Rikker from Bosch, you have won the national “Jugend forscht” competition in the category “Arbeitswelt” (the working world). Would you please tell us about the invention you submitted?
It is a portable wood splitter and a felling aid.
The wood splitter helps make it possible to split wood safely and ergonomically.
While performing research on the wood splitter we had developed, we discovered a new way of applying the principle. We worked on the tool some more, and now we can use it as a felling aid, too. This saves people from having to use a felling wedge. It also helps almost completely to prevent the resulting risk of being hit by dead wood from the crown of the tree. It makes felling trees faster, easier and, above all, much safer. And it means you no longer have to carry a heavy cleaving axe with you, which improves ergonomics.
How did you come up with the idea for the wood splitter?
Both Joshua and I grew up in the country. We used to go out in the forest with our parents and came into contact with wood at an early age. As a result, we knew about the challenges of forestry.
Where did you get the material and the tools to make your idea a reality?
We got the material and tools from the companies where we are doing our apprenticeships, STIHL and Bosch. Without their support, it would not have been possible to make this project a reality. Many of our colleagues also provided us with technical support and expertise, which played an important role in optimising our invention.
What has happened in your life since you won “Jugend forscht”? Has anything changed?
A number of things have changed. We have been on the road a lot due to our many invitations to events where we have presented our project and ceremonies such as the Chancellor’s official reception at the Chancellery building. We are really looking forward to attending the ISEF (Intel International Science and Engineering Fair) in Los Angeles in May 2014, where the “Jugend forscht” world championships take place, so to speak. I have also been able to make a lot of interesting contacts.
What do your trainers/training directors and fellow apprentices have to say about you suddenly becoming so “famous” and being on the road so much?
My trainers and training director support me greatly. They have helped me fit everything in. After all, despite everything going on around me, my apprenticeship has absolute priority! Many of my fellow apprentices have congratulated me on my win. But there has also been some criticism, which I see more as motivation to keep going.
Do you have an eye for where innovations could be made? And do you think about what you could optimise during your day-to-day work?
I do think about what could be improved or question processes. But like all apprentices, I spend time in various departments during my training. All apprentices think about things that could be optimised during this time.
What effect will your victory at “Jugend forscht” have on your future career path? Has it sparked your interest in engineering, and would you like to get more training in this field after your apprenticeship?
Sure, my interest in research and development has increased. I am currently going to school in the evenings to get my certificate of aptitude for specialised higher education, so I will soon be qualified for higher education. But I don’t yet know whether I will go to university or pursue a different course of education and training. And I don’t know when that would be, since I would also like to gain more practical working experience.
Are you already working on a new invention? And would you tell us what it is?
No, there are no completely new inventions planned – for the time being. Right now, Joshua and I are trying to optimise the felling aid and get it ready to go into production. And our preparations for the ISEF will also take up a lot of time.
Thank you very much for the interview. We can hardly wait to see what you will experience on your journey to the world’s largest youth science competition and wish you every success!