Essay Contest

Congratulations to the Winners of the 2020 Annual Essay Contest!


This year hundreds of students from around the country wrote essays about German inventors or who the modern Beethoven may be. We had a great time reading and discussing all of them. Your essays touched on German inventors from all areas of life and musicians from many areas of music. The record number of entries made it even harder than in previous years to choose a winner and the wait for the results that much longer. Without further delay, here is German Ambassador Emily Haber announcing the winners!


Thank you for another great year and we look forward to next year’s Annual Essay Contest. Look for the topics to be announced here in January 2021!


Winner: Grades 3-5

I was playing Chinese Checkers with my parents one night and I saw the history of the game on the back of the marble bag. I was surprised that the game was not from China but instead from Germany! None of us could believe that one of our favorite board games was German, so I looked it up on-line and it was actually a German invention by Ravensburger.

I learned from my research on the Internet that the first game of Chinese Checkers was published and patented by the German company Ravensburger in 1892. It was originally called Stern-Halma and the stern referred to the star-shaped game board. The game made its way to America and the name was changed to Chinese Checkers as a way to sell more games because Americans were fascinated by the Orient and it made the game more exciting and mysterious.

Over the last one hundred thirty years, Ravensburger has created more than two thousand books, puzzles and games and their products are sold in more than fifty countries. I think that Ravensburger is one of the best German companies and inventors because their products bring children and families together to have fun and grow through their guiding principle of learning through doing. I think this is really important now because of the need for people to stay home to stay healthy. Their products help people to relax and laugh and create memories with friends and family. Ravensburger has given the world a reason to feel good during a difficult time and helps provide a healthy activity to families just like mine.

Author: Andrew Marshall, 4th  Grade, Rabbit Creek Elementary School (Anchorage, AK)

Teacher: Holly Rinehart


Winner: Grades 6-8

There are many famous German inventors but for this essay, I have chosen my Great Grandfather Nikolaus Molitor. He invented a DC motor and produced electricity for several towns in Rheinland Pfalz. Around 1900, he bought a mill in Kobern-Gondorf, a town near Koblenz in Rheinland-Pfalz and used his inventions, including the DC Generator to produce electricity and bring light to the area. It was the first small power station in the Eifel region.

Before his invention in 1890, the people living there had to use candles or oil lamps to have lights in their homes and had no electricity. Life was not easy and everything had to be done by hand. During that time, not too many people were aware of electrical energy and had to live in the dark. Word got out that Nikolaus Molitor could power small towns with his invention. Some towns were across the river called “Mosel” and that presented a major obstacle. They thought, that they would never be able to be connected to his small power plant. My Great Grandfather came up with the idea to use a small boat to cross the river and place a thick cable on the bottom of the river. The cable was connected to his power station and he was able to deliver electricity to towns across the river. Little by little he connected all the small towns surrounding his power plant and produced electricity until the late 1930’s and for his own house until 1960. With his invention, my Great Grandfather made many lives so much easier and the towns and businesses prospered. When larger power stations threatened to take over, my Great Grandfather was prepared and started selling his other inventions. With his new founded company MOGO (Molitor Gondorf), he manufactured and sold small home appliances, like small home heaters and water kettles. He also started selling and repairing the first TV’s and Radios. My grandfather took over the company in 1962 and opened a store. It still exists and my mom grew up helping in the store.

Since my Great Grandfather, Nikolaus Molitor had done so much for the region, my Grandfather Josef Karl Nikolaus Molitor opened a small “Heimatmuseum” where the inventions are displayed and preserved.

Author: Maya Molitor. 7th Grade, G.W. Carver Middle School (Miami, FL)

Teacher:Gabriele Kieren-Moghani


German Inventor Winner: Grades 9-12

As we sit here in the year 2020, we have been faced with many challenges, the most prominent of which is the COVID-19 virus, also known as coronavirus. It has already killed thousands, and is expected to kill many more, while we wait for a vaccine of some sort to be produced in the next year and a half. But how do we get this far in science to be able to develop a vaccine for these types of viruses and diseases that plague the world constantly? Why do we have such abilities to discover agents that cause these issues in the world? One man is important to all of this modernization: Robert Koch.

After the Franco-Prussian War, Koch exited the military, where he was serving as a doctor, and opened his own clinic in the town of Wöllstein. It was there that Koch discovered an issue with anthrax, as it had killed hundreds of people and thousands of livestock. Through hundreds of different experiments on all types of animals, Koch discovered that bacteria in the animals’ blood could contaminate the soil, and could kill other animals or humans that used the land for crops. From this, Koch began to link specific strains of bacteria to unique diseases, and created a life cycle of anthrax.

A few years after his discoveries in Wöllstein, Koch moved to Berlin, where he would soon discover that bacteria would multiply into colonies and take over the cell that they were residing in, essentially killing it, along with the host. In order to kill these colonies, Koch began to experiment with different kinds of chemicals and steam. This would be a massive addition to the antibiotic era, and would prove to be one of, if not his most prominent discoveries to date. This allowed for doctors and scientists all around the world to experiment with different chemicals in order to discover what could and couldn’t protect a host from bacteria, whether deadly or just very dangerous.

Similar to what we have now around the world, another pandemic was feared to happen. In India and Egypt, cholera was spreading. Fearing a spread to Germany, the German government appointed Koch to work on a cure for cholera. When doing his studies on the cholera outbreak, Koch began to notice a constant issue with those impacted: lack of clean water. When water was then filtered in these places where the endemic was spreading, the number of cases dropped significantly.

Robert Koch was able to diagnose many forms of bacterial diseases in his time, and helped to increase the ways of which to fight off bacteria forms. This would only spread after he had passed away, and more and more discoveries on different types of diseases, such as viruses, would occur. The world could use Robert Koch’s ideas and push forward to protect from many diseases. Similar to what we are doing now, Koch had diagnosed the causes of disease. Koch caused the medical revolution.

Author: Aidan Kohnke, 12th Grade, Greendale High School (Greendale, WI)

Teacher: Linda Havas


Beethoven Winner: Grades 9-12

The legendary German composer Beethoven was born 250 years ago. His father tried to make him a child prodigy like Mozart (an Austrian), but Beethoven did not gain popularity until a little later. He gained popularity as an improv pianist in his late teens. Beethoven then went on to start composing, mostly for his main instrument, piano. His early work was heavily influenced by the romantic period and folk music from the Rhine area he grew up in. As he progressed with his career, his music evolved into more diverse orchestrations and pulse, while keeping with classical harmonies. These elements are what make his music so indelible.

Before Beethoven’s time, instrumental music was considered a lesser art form than literature and visual art. His compositions made instrumental music the highest art form. Beethoven used music to express human experience, which makes it so universally appealing. It is fantastic that he was able to achieve success as long as he did because he started going deaf before 1800, and was fully deaf by 1819. Beethoven wrote entire symphonies while deaf. He was also the first musician to be paid for composing music at his own will.

Classical music in general has a lot of influence on today’s music. Since Beethoven died 193 years ago, his music is part of the public domain, meaning that artists can use his music without infringing on copyright. Beethoven’s melodies and chord structures have influenced popular modern artists including Pink Floyd.

Lil Nas X is the Beethoven of today. Lil Nas X combined the genres of country and rap to make the hit “Old Town Road”: similarly to how Beethoven combined vocal and instrumental music in his ninth symphony. “Ode to Joy”, from Beethoven’s 9th symphony, is a tune that everyone has heard, even though it was composed 200 years ago. The fusion of country and rap in “Old Town Road” made it a hit that people who dislike both genres could enjoy. Both musicians started gaining fame in their late teen years. They also were both influenced by the music of their country. Rap and country can be considered modern “folk” music of America. Beyond his music, Lil Nas X is a gay, fashionable icon, who advocates for up and coming artists. Even with the pace that modern culture consumes media. Lil Nas X is going to be remembered as someone who changed music by breaking the walls of genres for a long time.

Beethoven was a German who influenced music not only during his lifetime, but even today. Even though he faced difficulties in being deaf, he kept making music; he wrote his most iconic symphony (9) while deaf. Many modern artists are not nearly as innovative as Beethoven was, but Lil Nas X is comparable. We will have to wait and see what other ingenious music Nas comes out with next.

Author: Claire Michels, 12th Grade, Oregon High School (Oregon, WI)

Teacher: Jeffrey Dyer


Honorable Mentions

Anasofia Cano (TX), Salim Farooqi (NC), Sophie Hsu (CA), Connie Liu (CA), Henry McFall (NC), Lindsey Moll (FL), Walker Terrell (NC),  Christina Sorochinsky (AL), Valerie Williams (FL)