ALTANA

As a specialty chemicals company, we engage in dialog with all kinds of social groups, for example with customers, neighbors, schoolchildren, and students. Exchanging ideas with the young generation is particularly close to our heart. That’s why we offer young people many opportunities to get to know our company and our work. At BYK, so-called school ambassadors give children and adolescents insight into the world of additives – a task that basically requires one thing: passion.

CHEMISTRY, PRACTICAL AND COMPREHENSIBLE. IN HANDS-ON EXPERIMENTS, THE BYK SCHOOL AMBASSADORS SHOW WHAT CHEMICAL PRODUCTS CAN DO IN DAY-TO-DAY LIFE.

Specialty Chemistry – Often Unknown
Chemistry accompanies us in life and makes our daily routines more pleasant. Easy-to-grip toothbrushes and easy-to-open yogurt containers, shiny car paint, non-slip flooring, and energy-efficient motors. All of these objects contain ALTANA products – additives, effect pigments, spe­cialty coatings, or insulating materials.

But who knows this? Hardly anyone. The school ambassadors are there to change this situation. This is the name BYK gave to a group of nine dedicated staff members who, apart from their tasks in the company, regularly stage information events at schools and kindergartens.

Six Education Partners
Jörg Forstmann is one of them. Twice a year, he spends a day with 9th- and 11th-graders at Euregio High School in Bocholt. The school is one of six education partners of the additives manufacturer. On the agenda are uncomplicated tabletop experiments, laboratory visits, and a tour of BYK’s manufacturing facilities.

“I never cease to be amazed at how disciplined, alert, and interested the students are,” says Forstmann. The best proof: they keep their smartphones in their pockets except during the lunch break.

Recruitment Campaigns
There are several reasons for BYK’s involvement. First, the company wants to give young people practical insight into the importance of the chemical industry and the function of additives, thus kindling their enthusiasm for the natural sciences. Second, the events serve as recruitment campaigns. “I often run into young people I met as a school ambassador,” says Forstmann. “Some are initially only interns, while others immediately decide to embark on a career at BYK.”

The fact that they return is due not least to Forstmann’s personal commitment and his passion for chemistry. “I’m a practical person,” says the school ambassador. “I want to know how a material works and why.” His passion spurs him on during his daily work in BYK’s plastics laboratory. And it transfers to his listeners, for example during a tabletop experiment on viscosity. Under his guidance, students in small groups learn how to thicken water with a rheology agent that contains a BYK additive.

To the students’ great surprise, the mixture becomes solid. When shaken, it becomes liquid briefly and then solid again. The young people look on in amazement. “Those are the moments in which key knowledge is acquired,” says the school ambassador. And he uses this knowl­edge for the next learning step.

Forstmann explains to the students that this behavior is an important prerequisite for being able to process paints or coatings well. This leads to a second piece of knowledge: every material has to fit the application exactly – that is the art of specialty chemistry.

The school ambassador has observed that such simple experiments usually suffice to arouse the young people’s interest. At the very least, they provide food for thought and provoke intense discussion. “Such exchange is beneficial for the company as a whole,” Forstmann says, summing up. “Only in this way can we learn what moves the young generation.”

From this perspective, these school days also serve a third purpose. The exchange with young people gives us an impression of how consumers change – and along with them the markets of the future.

Jörg Forstmann worked in various industries before coming to BYK, including pyrotechnics and aircraft construction. The most important insight he has gained during his multifaceted career: being passionate about a task is the key to success. His students understand this intuitively, without big words.