How does programming work? What professions does the web offer, apart from being a YouTube star? How do you expose fake news? What do you do when faced with cyberbullying? Why is data protection so important? What effect does advertising have on us?

The media camp held at Centralstation on May 17, 2022, under the motto “Fit for the digital future,” addressed precisely these issues. Three school classes met media educators and media experts at six stations.

The students were able to let off steam in virtual worlds and programming stations of the Mobile City Laboratory.

Under the guidance of Antonio Jorba, Nancy Teichmann and Anne Weisel, they built circuits on the microcontroller and took their first steps in the world of programming. It wasn’t just the LEDs and traffic lights that lit up in the end, it was also the eyes of the eager students, with many of them discovering the joy of electronics, programming and tinkering during the course of the afternoon. They experienced a playful and interactive geography lesson in the augmented reality sandbox, which used augmented reality technology* to project a three-dimensional topographical map onto the sand’s surface.
Using their hands and shovels, the students then formed their own worlds with real sand: they created mountains, let it rain virtually and watched as the water flowed down the mountains, gathered in valleys and formed lakes. It wasn’t just the students but also the adults who were excited to do some digging in the sandbox. Not only the students, but also the adults had a great desire to dig.
I see what you don’t: The young people explored how the real world can merge with the digital world and how it feels to have a full-fledged PC on their noses when they tried out the “HoloLens”. These mixed reality glasses* project holograms, multimedia content or information into the field of vision. The students were fascinated by controlling the HoloLens using gestures, head and eye movements, and voice commands, and painted a virtual graffito, for example.
After about four hours, an exciting and educational media camp came to an end for the students. The children were enthusiastic and had fun. Unanimous summary: “That was cool” and “it was fun”.


The Mediencamp event was held in cooperation with the Institute for Media Pedagogy and Communication.

* Augmented reality (AR) is a computer-aided representation that expands the real world with virtual aspects. Objects in front of the human eye are combined with complementary virtual information, which can be seen, for example, via a smartphone

Who better to provide information on what content and topics relating to digital life are important to children and young people than the people affected themselves? The very people affected, of course! And so in mid-October 2021, Smart City Darmstadt’s core team of Mobile City Laboratory technicians set off on their electric cargo bikes for HEAG-Häuschen, a meeting place for children and young people in Darmstadt-Arheiligen (www.heag-haus.). On this day, a media education afternoon was held by the Haus der digitale Medienbildung (HddM, with Peter Holnick, an active Mobile City Laboratory team member.

For several decades now, the doors and gates of the former HEAG administration building have been open every afternoon from Monday to Friday for youth center visitors from the age of ten. You will find a diverse program for employment and qualification as well as of course enough space to chill out or play and “hang out” together. Excursions or “special interest” activities also take place, such as acquiring a PC driver’s license. This is precisely why the youth center presents itself as a promising networking point for the Stadtlabor.

“An important target group of the mobile urban laboratory are children and young people,” Simone Schlosser explained to the youth center visitors on that October day, and Anne Weisel unceremoniously demonstrated the E-Lastenbike along with its teaching materials. “We would like to know in more detail which digital topics are particularly interesting for you, and perhaps also what you don’t understand or are critical of when you think about everyday life with digital technology. Which devices and which applications and apps do you use? How important are streaming services or applications (apps) such as Pinterest, WhatsApp and the like for your interaction and could you still do without a smartphone or laptop?” The children and young people as well as three employees of the HEAG-Häuschen discussed intensively with the Stadtlabor team and together they considered which Stadtlabor offers could be co-designed by the HEAG-Häuschen kids. Of particular interest was the topic “Darmstadt in 3D” or the idea of rebuilding the entire city or certain places in the computer game Minecraft and getting creative with it. The ideas and suggestions that were collected are to be incorporated into the program of the mobile city lab specifically for children and young people and are expected to be implemented from 2022: Darmstadt’s youth will then also be visited by the city lab technicians outside of youth centers with the E-Lastenbike in order to discuss the “digital favorite topics” of the young people. ‘digital natives’at their doorstep.

A big thank you to all participants of this afternoon and especially of course to the children and young people as well as the staff of the HEAG house! Without the kind cooperation of the HddM and the opportunity to present the City Lab at their Media Day, this informative and important afternoon would not have been possible. We look forward to continuing to work with you/all of you!

The webinar ‘Darmstadt HACKT für Wasser und Umwelt’ (Darmstadt HACKS for water and the environment) demonstrated a high degree of creative drive last Friday afternoon: Around 40 participants registered for the 24-hour online event of the Environment/Water participatory project in the Smart City Laboratory to co-creatively develop fresh ideas and concepts for some of the major challenges of Darmstadt’s urban ecology. The participants were given 24 hours, and on Saturday afternoon, they got to present their ideas to a jury of scientists and municipal officials. Three winning designs were awarded at the end of the hackathon and all ideas are being incorporated into the design of the ‘Smart Cities made in Germany’ federal funding programme. Its focus in Darmstadt is on the topic of water and the environment.

The participants worked in eight groups on three predefined challenges, for which solutions had to be developed over the next 24 hours: What could measures in water-sensitive urban development look like? Which green-blue infrastructures could improve the climate and the environment, and how could green buildings be implemented on a large scale?

The concepts developed showed how, for example, the responsible use of water, new ways of planting sealed areas or the use of digital assistants and web portals could lead to making Darmstadt even greener and therefore more liveable.

The results: three winners, three praiseworthy mentions

The jury, which evaluated the eight presentations on Saturday afternoon at the end of the hackathon and selected three winners, found the task far from easy. How solution-oriented, scalable or forward-looking are the ideas? The jurors deliberated their decision for over an hour before announcing the following winners:

First place (€1,000): Groof

An online platform that answers all important questions about greenery and also serves as a platform where new and established facade and building gardeners can meet to discuss plants, garden plots and Darmstadt’s flora. (Team members: Inga Dschinger, Lukas Cramer, Robert Kubiek, Joshua Bodemann, Sven Reule)

Second place (€750): Greening our city

The investment concept develops green-blue infrastructures along three different sized building blocks: from mobile beds and tree sponsorships to unsealing projects and the construction of biodiversity-rich city-wide corridors as green-blue veins of the city map. (Team members: Mallinalli Boss, Vanessa Schwickart, Tamina Milius, Daniel Müller, Hana Ataei, Nora Schwarz, Sophie Pfeil for Architects4Future Darmstadt)

Third place (€500): Benches and cans

A participation platform that calls on all citizens to water fledgling urban trees. Rain collection containers and watering cans are to be attached to posts for this purpose. Everyone from the neighbourhood can thus water the greenery in their street. The platform notifies participants if the trees don’t get enough water. (Team members: Eva von Monschaw, Paula Grzesiek, Richard Gerspach, Jannik Fritsch, Carmen Aires, Tobias Albrecht)

The participants were visibly impressed: ‘Thank you for the great event. We had a lot of fun and are delighted to receive this award,’ said the email of one of the prizewinners.

You can learn more about the hackathon and pitch ideas here in the hackathon reader (PDF)


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In the online event in March 2021, the Environment/water participatory project of the Smart City Laboratory was presented to the public for the first time. Cluster 2 of the Smart City Laboratory presented a digital platform that could strengthen the commitment of Darmstadt’s citizens to urban greenery. The idea: using 3D visualisations and mapping, for example, everyone should be able to see quickly and easily which young trees need water, shade or something else. Ideally, the residents of Darmstadt could then take action themselves. Because, like many other cities, Darmstadt is struggling with increasing drought and warming.

Creating green spaces can help counteract this trend. While glass facades and concrete act as heat storage, trees and avenues provide cooling shade, especially in summer. And while rainwater rolls off sealed asphalt surfaces, it slowly seeps into the loose soil of beds and cools the areas close to the ground. Professor Jochen Hack, professor of digital environmental planning at the University of Hannover, explained what such a ‘green infrastructure’ can do for Darmstadt and could possibly do even more in the future. According to him, urban greenery has a whole range of benefits. Sustainable urban development will have to take even greater account of biodiversity as an ecosystem and its function as a water reservoir and cooling factor, as well as its value for leisure and health. There are a number of positive effects that speak for a more intense greening of our urban habitats. Only a portion of it remains limited to public green spaces and parks. Much of this is due to the largely underused possibilities on facades, on roofs or in inner courtyards. Private property owners and tenants in particular are therefore invited to be proactive and get involved in the city’s greenery. However, when greening urban areas, technical, organisational and legal issues are also involved. A digital platform can help ensure that relevant information is available at an early stage. However, it must be implemented in close coordination with the municipal authorities. For example, not every seed proves to be a useful contribution and not every free space is easy to use. To support the municipal society’s joint commitment to nature, environment and water in Darmstadt, members of the Smart City Laboratory are currently developing the prototype of a digital platform. In the second part of the Learning Workshop event, the initiators – Dr Michael Kreutzer from Fraunhofer SIT and Dr Joachim Rix from Fraunhofer IGD – explained how such a platform works and could look in the future. Ivan Iovine from Fraunhofer IGD then gave an initial insight into how the map prototype works, as of April 2021. You can see a summary of the event in the video and in the presentations:


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Presentation “Darmstadt in 3D” by Dr. Joachim Rix as >PDF<
Presentation Environment and water in Darmstadt by Professor Jochen Hack as >PDF<

About the speakers

As stakeholders in the Smart City Laboratory, the speakers of the evening are committed to its continuous development. In this context, they initiated the Environment/water participatory project and launched the interactive environmental map for Darmstadt. Professor Jochen Hack is professor of digital environmental planning at the University of Hannover. Dr Michael Kreutzer coordinates the Smart City and Smart Region projects at the Fraunhofer Institute for Secure Information Technology SIT. Dr Joachim Rix () and Ivan Iovine are working on interactive 2D and 3D visualisations of geodata at the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research IGD.

Field of action