Maido Merisalu, Mart Noorma and Alvo Aabloo win education awards

On October 7 2017, the Ministry of Education and Research hosted the ‘Estonia Learns and Thanks’ gala to acknowledge educational workers and supporters. The title awarded to faculty members went to the University of Tartu for the third year in a row, with the winner being Maido Merisalu, a material science engineer at the Institute of Physics. The ministry awarded UT associate professor Mart Noorma with the title of Friend of Education. Professor Alvo Aabloo was recognised as one of the people behind the technology and design hackathon series Garage48 Hardware and Arts.

Maido Merisalu is an inspiring young faculty member and material scientist at the University of Tartu who, in addition to educating students, also promotes science to a wider audience. His educational science videos are well-known amongst students both in and outside UT.

According to Merisalu, learning and teaching are teamwork between students and faculty members, and among faculty members themselves. High-quality study materials are essential in teaching. During his Master’s studies at UT, Merisalu realised that some topics are very difficult to grasp when merely read about. Thus, in his spare time, he learned to make 3D animations – and he has now made more than one hundred videos (often in collaboration with other UT research staff) where such animation is used to explain more complex high-tech material characterisation methods and nanotechnology synthesis principles. “It’s obvious that students need such materials,” he said. “These videos spread across the net and introduce the work of material scientists and Estonian science in a popular scientific way all over the world.” You can take a look at Merisalu’s study videos on his YouTube channel Captain Corrosion.

In addition to Merisalu, associate professor of university teaching Mari Karm was also nominated for the title of Faculty Member of the Year. Karm has been teaching teachers and faculty members to teach with a passion for a long time and she is also an active researcher.

Alvo Aabloo (who earned the award for Educational Deed of the Year), Renee Puusepp, Martin Melioranski, Indrek Rebane and Anu Piirisild are the team behind the technology and design hackathon series Garage48 Hardware & Arts. The University of Tartu and the Estonian Academy of Arts, together with the Garage 48 foundation, have been successfully organising hackathons to develop physical prototypes for the last four years. Every year, nearly 20 ideas for or solutions to daily problems have been developed into prototypes during the 48-hour event.

Aabloo expressed his happiness on receiving the award – a "Joosep" sculpture. “There are lots of awesome things at the university aside from science,” he said, joking that all three Joosep sculptures won by representatives of UT should be photographed together.

Mart Noorma, who was presented with the title of Friend of Education, is a former Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs of UT, but is more widely known as the initiator and supervisor of the Estonian student satellite programme and as a judge on the science-themed TV show ‘Rakett 69’, in which he also involved vocational school students for the first time in 2017. Equal valuing of vocational and higher education is important to Noorma and he has contributed to both: in addition to the work he does at the University of Tartu, he is a member of the council at Tartu Vocational Education Centre.

Noorma said that he earned the title thanks to the fact that vocational and higher education are increasingly viewing one another as partners. “We’re sensing the cooperation potential between us more and more, and in very varied areas,” he explained. “We’ve also noticed that those who continue their studies at the university after graduating from vocational school have very good results and achieve a lot. Liina Suur, who won the Student of the Year title and who is currently studying at UT to become a teacher, is an alumni of Tartu Vocational Education Centre.”

‘Estonia Learns and Thanks’ is organised by the Ministry of Education and Research, the Estonian Education Personnel Union and the Innove Foundation. The gala broadcast can be watched for a month on the website of Estonian Public Broadcasting (ERR).

Additional information: Anneli Saro, Vice Rector for Academic Affairs, (+372) 5557 5657,

Maria Kristiina Prass Assistant to the Press Officer Tel. (+372) 737 5509
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