IST Austria Pop-up Science

Science instead of boredom!

IST Austria Pop-up Science – Science instead of boredom!

From March 18th until at least Easter, schools are closed in Austria. Pupils have to be looked after at home or in school buildings and pose challenges for parents. With the new format Pop-up Science, IST Austria offers online activities to satisfy the curiosity of young researchers. True to the motto “Research instead of boring!” children meet scientists, experiment and develop their research questions: Why do ants clean themselves, what is a starch pool and how do plants dance? In this way, children playfully learn about research and the everyday work of scientists.

There will be a new activity every day, and maybe even the grown-ups can learn something new.

IST Austria Pop up Science – Science instead of boredom
Week #3 – Science Week

#3 – Teaser “Everything flows”

Every day, vast amounts of water flow down rivers and create big waves in the ocean . Directly around us, air currents also cause movement. Thus, our world is in constant motion—both in the water and in the air. However, where there is much movement, chaos or disorder can also occur. This week, we will therefore deal with the flow of things and we will show you how and why things get turbulent when this flow is disturbed.

Activities for this week 30.3. – 3.4.

  • Monday – Introduction to the topic
  • Tuesday – Starch video
  • Wednesday – Experiment “The candle”
  • Thursday – Science Chat!
  • Friday – “Schulwettbewerb”

IST Austria school competition

We have been home for three weeks, and many of you may slowly be running out of ideas for exciting activities. Pop-Up Science has a suggestion: how about taking part in a school competition and winning great prizes—all from home?

Have you heard about the IST Austria school competition? All pupils (from 6 to 19) can join. This year’s motto: ideas4future. What are your ideas for the future? Which ideas will improve our lives? Which innovations will keep our planet livable?

Have you already thought about these questions? Send us your ideas until April 30 to Below you can find a flyer with more information.

IST Austria Schulwettbewerb 2020 (German only)

Science Chat with fluid dynamics researcher Michael Riedl

Today, you had the opportunity to ask a researcher all you ever wanted to know about fluids. You have sent us a lot of questions, and here are finally all the answers from fluid expert Michael Riedl. Michael is part of the Hof research group at IST Austria, where he studies the nature of turbulence and the dynamics of complex fluids.

Science Chat with fluid dynamics researcher Michael Riedl (German only)

The art of blowing out a candle

We bet you that you won’t be able to blow out a candle from 1.5 meters distance. No matter how hard you blow, you can’t make it. In fact, blowing harder is the reason why you won’t make it. Why is that? The problem is turbulence. Today, we will explain to you how to become professionals at blowing out candles.

The art of blowing out a candle (German only)

Starch pool

Have you ever dreamed of walking on water? No problem – we will show you how to do it! Okay, we will have to cheat a little: the liquid you can walk on, is not just water, it’s water mixed with starch. Here, you can see how to reproduce our experiment at home.

Starch pool instructions from Open Campus 2019

For last year’s Open Campus at IST Austria, we filled a huge pool with the viscous starch mass. The result? It worked – and it was great fun! See for yourself!

Open Campus 2019 Starch pool

Introduction to the topic

Did you know that in 2018 wind flows were so strong that the current of the North Sea moved “the wrong way round” for a month and a half? Here we have collected some more exciting information for you. Can you answer all the questions?

On this site:

#2 Week 23.3. – 27.3.

#2 – Ant Week

Ants are fascinating animals. For their body size, for example, they are incredibly strong. At the same time, they live in huge colonies with an elaborate social system.

Activities for this week 23.3. – 27.3.

  • Monday – Introduction to the topic
  • Tuesday – Ant video
  • Wednesday – Experiment recap “The Toast”
  • Thursday – Ask the scientist!
  • Friday – Ant experiment

What do ants like to eat best?

Today, we have two junior scientists with us: Eva and Elisabeth are investigating which food ants in their garden like best. Different types of ants have different favorite meals. Some ants like sweet things, but others also eat seeds and grains. Have you ever investigated what the ants in your garden like best?

In order to make it easier for you to start experimenting with ants, we have created a working sheet. There, you can fill in your research question and list the things you need for your experiment. Have fun researching!

Please note:
Doing experiments with ants is great fun. But please take good care not to hurt these little animals!

Eva and Elisabeth are investigating which food ants in their garden like best. (German only)

Interview with an ant expert

Today, you had the opportunity to ask a researcher all you ever wanted to know about ants. You have sent us a lot of questions, and you can now find all the answers from ant expert Sylvia Cremer here. Sylvia is leading her own research group at IST Austria where she studies how large colonies of social insects protect themselves against diseases.

Interview with ant expert Sylvia Cremer (German only)

Moldy toast – results

Today, we are revealing the results of our moldy toast experiment from last Wednesday. We wanted to know if a piece of toast can show us that our hands are dirty. Magdalena and Veronika are presenting their result and compare them to the results you have sent us. They also explain why most experiments have to be run several times to draw the right conclusions.

Yet, what does all this have to do with ants? Ants also show hygiene behavior. To keep themselves and their nest clean, the animals spray formic acid. The acid disinfects the nest and this way removes pathogens. Thus, similar to humans, ants also use some form of disinfectant – and they even produce it themselves!

Important: Do not eat your toast from the experiment!
Mould is poisonous. It is best to dispose of your research material in the bag.

Magdalena and Veronika are presenting their result on the moldy toast experiment (German only).

How do ants treat infections?

Fungi, viruses and bacteria can make us sick. We, humans, try to keep them away from our bodies by washing our hands. Ants also clean themselves, but they also have another special trick up their sleeves. Ant expert Sina Metzler explains why an ant colony does not get sick and what we can learn from these tiny creatures.

Here you can watch an interesting video on how ants fight infections:

Introduction to the topic

Here we have collected some more exciting information for you. Can you answer all the questions? (Content only available in German)

On Thursday, we are talking to ant scientists Sylvia Cremer. Do you have any questions for her? Please send them to

#1 Week 18.3. – 20.3.

#1 – Science Week

This week’s Pop-up Science is about the everyday work of scientists: we explain what a research question is and guide you through our research institute. Also, an experiment shows how important hand washing is.

Activities for this week 18.3. – 20.3.

  • Wednesday – Experiment “The Toast”
  • Thursday – “What’s a research question?”
  • Friday – Virtual tour IST Austria

Experiment of the week

The moldy toast experiment

Although we cannot see it, many stowaways stick to our hands. Washing hands is, therefore, important to remove microbes and dirt from our bodies. But how big is the difference between a clean and a dirty hand really? IST Austria science communicator Magdalena will demonstrate you how to answer this question with a simple experiment. All you need is two pieces of toast, two small plastic bags and a pen to make the stowaways on your hands visible.

And this is how it works:

  1. Take a slice of toast and touch it all over on all sides to distribute the dirt on your hands. The experiment works best if you have been outside in the garden or on the balcony before and gotten your hands really dirty.
  2. Afterwards, put the slice of toast into the first plastic bag.
  3. Now wash your hands thoroughly (use a lot of soap to do so!).
  4. Now grab the second slice of toast, touch it all over again and put it into the second bag.
  5. Close the bags or knot them tight and write “dirty” on the one and “clean” on the other bag.
  6. Now, let the bags rest in your room or in the kitchen (but not in the fridge!) for about a week. After one week, you will see the result of your experiment.

We are excited to learn what you have found out! Share your results with us and write us an e-mail to

Here is the experiment in video format for young and old to try it out!

What‘s a research question?

What do scientists actually deal with all day? And what is a research question? Julia has prepared some answers for you in today’s video. If you have soaked beans at home, such as white beans, you can even carry out an experiment yourself – just like a real scientist!

Explanation and experiment “What’s a research question?” with Julia from IST Austria

Who are we, anyway?

Now that we have done some experiments with you, we would like to introduce ourselves. We are the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (or IST Austria). We are a young international research institute in Klosterneuburg near Vienna. Our goal is to conduct first-class research and train new scientists.

Documents & Videos for this week

Here you will find working materials, videos and other useful content that we can make available to you and your children.

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