Every year, the Swiss National Future Day invites 5th to 7th grade students to visit different working environments to get insight into the various professions they can choose for their career. A key goal of the nationwide initiative is to allow girls and boys to explore gender-untypical fields of work. This year, the NCCR Digital Fabrication participated in the Future Day at ETH Zurich and provided over 20 kids insight into the working environment of some of its researchers and technicians.

A special morning program was organised for the participating children on the Hönggerberg Campus of ETH Zurich. After a warm welcome by ETH Rector Prof. Dr. Sarah Springman, the NCCR welcomed eleven girls and ten boys to an interesting morning program.

Visit to the world’s biggest robotic laboratory in architecture
During the first part of the morning, NCCR technicians together with members of the NCCR management team gave the kids a tour through the Arch_Tec_Lab, the new building of ETH Zurich’s Institute of Technology in Architecture (ITA) where many of the NCCR researchers work. The girls and boys were visibly impressed by the robotically fabricated timber roof and the Robotic Fabrication Laboratory – the world’s currently biggest robotic facility in the field of architecture and construction. Besides the facilities, the kids were also fascinated by the baroque details of the prototypical 3D-printed building component from the group of the NCCR principal investigator Benjamin Dillenburger.

Working with robots and 3D printers
In the second part of the morning, researchers from the NCCR and the ITA introduced the kids to their work: at three different stations, the girls and boys got insight into what it means to design and build with digital technologies. They learned how to teach a robot to paint their name, or to precisely stack up small wooden blocks to form a curved wall. Furthermore, all participants were able to test their coordination skills, as they were asked to manually navigate one of the big 6-axis robots in the laboratory through a given obstacle course.

At the end of the program, all participants gathered in order to learn from the participating researchers and technicians about the many career paths available to enter the field of digital fabrication in architecture and construction. After a round of intense discussions all participants received a small model of one of the UR robots they have worked with in the morning. And who knows? Perhaps someday some of the kids will return to the ITA.