From Rollstuhl to robotics: A journey of discovery for young minds

Ms. Cornelia Klein, has been working as a university assistant at the Institute for Public Business Administration of Alpen Adria University for three years and passes by the “Bunte Knöpfe” kindergarten at Lakeside Park every day in her wheelchair. In the past, there have been individual questions from the children about Ms. Klein’s wheelchair. In conversation with Ms. Margit Motschiunig and the kindergarten teachers, the idea of organizing an open question-and-answer session for the children was born.
On March 29, 2023, Ms. Klein visited the “Bunte Knöpfe” kindergarten. The children, aged 3 to 6, asked the most diverse and interesting questions excitedly: “Why do you need the wheelchair?”, “How do you sleep?”, “How do you travel?”, “Can robots help you cook?” Ms. Klein answered all the questions in an easy-to-understand language suitable for children. The children were also thrilled with the cool features of her wheelchair, which Ms. Klein quickly transformed into a comfortable recliner. The letters she wrote with her mouth were quickly recognized. Ms. Klein openly shared her everyday life with the children and showed them that one can achieve many things, even if one may have to take different paths.
Another highlight was the trip two floors up to Ms. Klein’s office, where the children could see her working on the computer. Professor Paolo Rondo-Brovetto and his team had opened all doors and organized a small takeaway surprise with the support of the Family Service and the Children’s University. Professor Wilfried Elmenreich and his team from the Institute for Networked and Embedded Systems had also come up with something very special for this high-profile visit. University assistant Kristina Wogatai led the children through the laboratory and showed them how the swarm robot Spiderino, developed at the university, is assembled. Research assistant Khalil Youssefi then showed how the robots are tested in a specially built runway. Finally, the children were able to conduct their own experiment: They had to assemble a path for a line-following robot from puzzle pieces. A successful day for all involved.