Public outreach activities of the CPC Research School at "Mini-München" 2018

public outreach at Mini-München; ©Claudia Staab-Weijnitz, CPC-Research School

“Mini-München”, which just took place in the Olympiapark from July 30 to August 17, is the biggest municipal summer holiday program for children in Munich and features a parent-free area with city-like structures, where children get employed, study at university, make money, and shape the city in every thinkable way. Organized and supervised by PD Dr. Claudia Staab-Weijnitz, Scientific Director of the CPC Research School, Mini-München this year included an area on air and lung research, in the so-called “Forschungsstadt” at Mini-München University. For the complete three-week duration of Mini-München, we, i.e. alumni, PhD and MD students from the MD/PhD program CPC Research School, were engaged to teach the young Mini-München scientists about lung physiology and pathology in a playful and entertaining manner. For instance, together with the children students, we carefully investigated real pig lungs and not only characterized anatomical structures like lobes, fissurae, arteriae, venae and bronchi but also learnt about thoracic pressures, breathing physiology, and the function of mucus. It was quite impressive for the ascending researchers to inflate different bronchi and see the corresponding lobe getting bloated.

Since research in lung diseases is our main work at the ILBD/CPC we also illustrated the devastating consequences of cigarette consumption which is the most avoidable risk factor for many lung pathologies. How does it feel for a long-term smoker to get up to the fifth floor? To comprehend the impact of cigarette smoke on our health, the young researchers did some physical examination and afterwards tried breathing just through a drinking straw. The big effort to exhale through the straw made everyone breathe with mouth wide open after seconds already, providing everyone with a glimpse of what having COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), which is mostly caused by smoking, may feel like. Furthermore, in order to illustrate how much dirt is actually delivered to the lung by smoking a cigarette, we positioned a white cotton pad - which the female researches quickly recognized as cosmetic equipment - into a special chamber and “smoked” one cigarette with the help of bellows originally belonging to a rubber boat. A similar experiment was done with cotton wool in a bottle. In both experiments, the kids could clearly see how many toxic combustion residues are passing the cigarette filter which is actually made to protect smoker lungs from tar and other pathogenic substances in the cigarette. 

The last picture nicely shows how much dirt actually reaches the lungs of smokers who just want the nicotine. And keep in mind: this was just one cigarette! The kids also calculated the costs for one pack of cigarettes per day in a year. And all young and grown-up scientists agreed that one could have much more fun investing 2300 (in words: two thousand and three hundred) Euros in a nice city trip or better food or also a new mobile phone.

Our info-taining lectures contributed to health education and smoking prevention and we hope that some young researcher will let their friends know that smoking is anything but cool, should the subject come up. And say “no” when being offered a smoke.

Johannes Nowak  

For more information on the Mini-München concept, also refer to http://www.mini-muenchen.info/index.php?article_id=19