Reluctantly, the commotion in the Hotel Sempachersee’s auditorium came to a halt as Dr. Julián Cancino stepped on stage to address the participants of the International Swiss Talent Forum 2024, or ISTF24, with a first, warm welcome on the Tuesday before the event. Learning for the Future, the big screen next to him read, presenting the overarching topic of this year’s forum, for which 79 brilliant, young minds from 33 different countries gathered in Nottwil. There, in groups of eight, they had to tackle one of the five challenges relating to general theme. However, while Learning for the Future as a motto might seem comprehensible enough at first glance, the attendees soon learned that for this 13th ISTF, learning was not necessarily limited to the understanding of the word in a school setting, which for many of us might be what we initially associate with the term, but rather related to strategies that enable the development and progress of society as a whole. Thus, participants were met with diverse challenges ranging from Rethinking Online Career Orientation to Unlocking OpenAI and Human Architecture for Equity, Equality & Ethics. Granted, one of these challenges indeed concerned itself with the school facet of the overall topic, as its focus lied on Designing the Classroom of Tomorrow, which is also the type of setting Swiss Youth in Science tries to provide during their annual forum. Thus, for the full duration of ISTF2024, they swapped all blackboards and chalk for white board walls and colourful stickers, put coaches where one would maybe expect a teacher, and reimagined the perfect curriculum for their participants. Now, since especially the latter is what makes the ISTF, the subsequent timetable will give you some insight into Thursday, our attendees’ second day at work.

Thursday, 22 February 2024 – ISTF24 Day 2

08:00 – 08:15    Introduction Assembly

Like every other day of the ISTF, Thursday also opened with a morning briefing. For this, all the participants gathered again in the spacious auditorium, and, by the powers vested in them by the breakfast buffet, they absorbed all the provided information about the day ahead. The following few hours, the ten groups, two for each challenge, would then gather ideas to solve their previously defined problem statements, with the goal of having a first solution ready by the end of the day. As it was already day two of the forum, this is indeed not the first but the second part of the process our coaches love to equate with mountaineering. However, as climbing such a mountain without the appropriate equipment would be dangerous, we first had to gear up our ISTF participants with the hiking boots of the trade – some knowledge about ideation.

08:15 – 10:00    Ideation Bootcamp

Next, a bootcamp dedicated to ideation, a more elaborate term for the structured process of coming up with new ideas, filled the whole first period of the day. Therein, participants simultaneously learned how to actually work through these steps but also how to support each other throughout this creative journey in general, and, for moments when the workload was too much to carry on their way up to the ISTF mountain’s top, our mascot, the no-drama-lama, stood by their side for moral support.

10:00 – 10:15    Coffee Break

Despite the constant hunt for novel ideas, some things never change, and hence our trusted coffee break made a spectacular comeback. Thus, also in 2024, 15 minutes of each morning were strictly dedicated to our participants taking a break from all the hard work and recharging with cake and coffee.

10:15 – 12:00    Cycle Two

However, by 10:16, the hallways were empty again, and the teams were found brooding over their challenges in their respective rooms. With the ideation strategies still fresh in their minds, they now began working on cycle two – the aforementioned adventure of finding the solutions to all the questions raised during the day before.

12:00 – 13:00    Lunch Break

As we all know, food is fuel and should thus not be omitted, which is why at 12 o’clock, pens and pencils were temporarily swapped for forks and knives. Oh, and, speaking of fuel, to compensate for all the emissions such an international event unfortunately causes, participants were encouraged to make use of the predominantly vegetarian options offered by the hotel, contributing to the ISTF’s net effect remaining 100% positive.

13:00 – 14:30    Cycle Two

Then, it was time for another session on cycle two, because whoever thought that a bit over 100 minutes would be long enough to contain all our participants’ brilliant ideas clearly has never been a guest at one of our events. So, of course, we had to give them another hour and a half to continue their inspiring work after lunch!

14:30 – 15:30    Coffee Break

True to the motto A Little Break Never Hurt Nobody, the afternoon also contained a coffee break, this time an even longer one, and while, of course, treats and hot beverages were still at the centre of attention, those intermissions were not placed there without any ulterior motives on our side. Apart from fuelling our participants’ hard-working brains, the numerous coffee breaks also posed an opportunity for attendees to connect with each other, be it among their own team or with people from other groups. The result was an increasingly relaxed, amicable atmosphere, which not only fosters the social side the ISTF is known for but also doubles as the forum’s strongest instrument to facilitate its pivotal, collaborative methodology.

15:30 – 17:30    Cycle Proof     

For the most part, the groups worked independently rather than under the constant supervision of coaches or challengers, but, of course, we did not abandon them by any means. One central checkpoint was the daily Cycle Proof, where each group would meet with their challenger and coach to assess their work, progress, and potential hurdles to ensure everybody was ready for the next step.

17:30 – ?           Extra-Curricular Activity

However, before any next work steps were taken, we took some actual, physical steps outside, as this evening was reserved for extra-curricular fun. Thanks to the event’s location, Luzern was only one bus ride away, and while the no-drama-lama was sound asleep, participants enjoyed a fun night out in one of Switzerland’s most famous towns. Thus, we will have to wait a tiny bit longer to hear about the results of these productive four days, giving our anticipation some time to grow.