5 Minute Survey: Engineers and their conscience

Everyone gets confronted with difficult decisions and responsibilities in life. Engineers however face especially impactful choices. Should you work on a drone, knowing that it can be used for spying or to kill people? Or on robots that take away millions of jobs; ships that end up polluting Asian beaches; GMO’s or pesticides that destroy ecosystems; or electronics that end up in African landfills?

In short, there is a shadow side to all technology, and SG is curious how you feel about your place in it. This small survey will help us get a little bit more insight into that. Of course, your answers will be processed anonymously.

Whether you are a student, alumnus, or a staff member, this survey is for you!


fb_header conscience


Refugees Welcome in TU Delft Free Zones – A Satire

When the TU Delft introduced the Free Zones on campus about a year ago, I have to admit my first thoughts were raginglyhttps://intranet.tudelft.nl/uploads/RTEmagicC_freezone250.jpg.jpg cynical.  This must be a joke, I thought: in order to improve the quality of life on campus, a team of grown up people spent a good deal of time (and $$) working out a plan where a patch of land is emblazoned with a large red FREE ZONE text and outfitted with wifi, water, and electricity, so that students can do fun stuff outside. Sounds great in theory, but in practice these patches of land come with all sorts of regulations. And bureaucratic procedures. So they’re not exactly free. And they’re hardly being used at all, at all. And of course it’s too cold and wet most of the year to use them anyway, and so on and so forth.

Not to mention the fact that naming them Free Zones is highly reminiscent of the “free speech zones” in the USA, where democratic protestors are corraled into fenced off areas where they are allowed to “safely” protest and exercise their democratic freedoms.


And not to forget the implication that everything outside the Free Zone is, somehow, Not Free. Did you consider that? You’re walking around or sitting in an implicitly unfree zone right now.


So much for my ragingly cynical first reaction. I don’t want to be a hater, or at least: I don’t want it to end there. Luckily, it turns out there are positive aspects to the Free Zone phenomenon as well. A way that they can be used for a greater purpose: namely, to house refugees on campus. The pamphlet below is a brilliant satirical piece by pseudonymous student Karel de Kleijne. Let us know your thoughts on the Free Zones and the refugee idea in the comment section below.

Column - Refugees Welcome - Karel de Kleijne - A3

India and Delft

In 2014, there were over four hundred Indian students at the TU Delft, second only in number to Chinese students in the ballooning population of internationals. There is an active student’s association, ISA, representing Indian students and organizing cultural activities and parties from Diwali to Holi. And now for the first time there has been a joint event organized by ISA, SG, and S4S, to highlight the cultural differences and similarities between engineering in Europe and in India.
And why not? Know thy neighbor, I always say (I don’t actually know my neighbors).

A university is a great place for cultural exchange. And with four hundred Indians walking around and working on this campus, it serves us as a community to get to know each other. And who better to facilitate that than those who know both cultures: students who have done projects abroad in India, and Indian students who have worked and studied at home as well as in Europe.

The “Indian Expedition” event, hosted by local celebrity student Nitant Shinde from Aerospace, introduced four speakers. First up was Maarten Duijnisveld, former chairman of S4S, who traveled to India in early 2014 to set up projects for Delft students through the Amrita University in southern India. Second was Mick, who with two fellow students is traveling to India in November this year to complete one of those projects. Specifically, they are going to use solar energy to give a much-needed boost to the local production of lemon grass oil in the rural south. The third speaker was Brian Baldassarre, an Industrial Design student who went to India in 2013 with his group to redesign the handlebars of the local rikshaws in Varanasi to offer more comfort to the drivers. Fourth and last was Vidyut Mohan, who together with his American partner went to the rural north of India to develop a biofuel industry, by turning pine needles into fuel through a process known as torrefaction. There is an enormous excess of pine needles in government-planted forests and a lack of jobs as well. So here’s to hitting two birds with one stone.

Each of these projects met with different challenges, successes, and failures because of the cultural divide, as became clear in the stories these students shared. You can still get an impression of their stories from their presentations, which you can see by clicking on the images below.

Interesting fact: of the over four hundred Indian students in Delft, less than ten made it to this event. Why so few? Your theory is as good as mine, but it’s clearly something SG has to work on in the future.

DSC04105India smallS4S preso-14Vidyut

Synthetic Biology and the TUD iGEM Team

*Update* The TU Delft iGEM team won the overall prize of the competition this weekend (28 september 2015). Out of over 200 teams from universities across the world, congratulations!

What do you know about the future of synthetic biology? As for me, I’ll admit I’m no expert. Life sciences seem like a pandora’s box to me, waiting to completely disrupt all the biological systems on our planet. But maybe I’m just an optimist 🙂

Last August, a dozen students from across the TU got some hands-on experience in developing ideas and business plans for up and coming technology in this field. Led by the students of this year’s iGEM team (iGEM stands for International Genetically Engineered Machine), a workshop was held to spread knowledge and awareness about synthetic biology and to get feedback from, frankly, a bunch of (enthusiastic and capable) noobs.

SG helped sponsor and plan this workshop. Have a look below for a summary of the event, or open the pdf here!

iGEM Bio3Dimensions workshop august 2015-1

iGEM Bio3Dimensions workshop august 2015-2

iGEM Bio3Dimensions workshop august 2015-3

Bezoek SG op de OWEE infomarkt!

OWEE posterStudium Generale, onderdeel van de TU Delft, biedt verdiepende en geestverruimende activiteiten aan. Van bitcoins tot Einstein en van politiek tot filosofie. SG daagt je uit om jezelf niet alleen als ingenieur te ontwikkelen, maar ook als individu!

Bezoek onze lezingen, workshops, debatten, films en documentaires over de meest uiteenlopende onderwerpen met bekende en onbekende schrijvers, wetenschappers, journalisten of politici, vaak op de scheidslijn van techniek en maatschappij; soms controversieel maar altijd kritisch. Ook over jouw rol als ingenieur in de wereld. Onze activiteiten zijn vrij toegankelijk en (bijna) altijd gratis. Blijf op de hoogte van onze activiteiten, bekijk onze online lezingen en schrijf je in voor onze wekelijkse nieuwsbrief.

Nu online! Joris Luyendijk – Dit kan niet waar zijn

Recording: Joris Luyendijk: Dit Kan Niet Waar Zijn

Onder de titel ‘dit kan niet waar zijn’ sprak Joris Luyendijk op woensdag 25 maart jl. in de Aula van de TU Delft tegenover 1800 (!!) zeer uitgelaten mensen, over het bancaire systeem van deze wereld. De grote zaal van 1000 man zat afgeladen vol en alle extra toeschouwers moesten naar de tegenoverliggende collegezalen, uitgerust met een videoverbinding met de grote zaal, waar zij bijna twee uur lang Joris verhaal over de bancaire wereld konden horen. Het werd steeds warmer.

Met de nodig humor, en na vier jaar UK ook met het zo typische gevoel voor Engels ‘understatement’ kwam er een snoeihard, duidelijk en zeer begrijpelijk verhaal over hoe onze wereld zich van de ene naar de andere crisis sleept. Het meest verrassende, en ook de reden voor de titel van zijn boek, is dat het iedere dag opnieuw kan gebeuren. Want hoewel het gaat over mondiale systemen, die systemen worden door mensen gevuld. En het hele pallet aan mensen in diverse monetaire, bancaire en andere aires kwam voorbij – anoniem, want bang voor op staande voet ontslag vanwege het spreken over het systeem waar zij inzitten met derden – en het werd er maar niet beter van.

De grote toestroom, ook van jongeren, laat zien dat mensen genoeg hebben van weer een volgend bericht over het verhogen van de salarissen en bonussen van topbankiers en politici die er bij staan en er naar kijken. In het licht van verhoogde collegegelden, studentenleningen, belastingen, opcenten, WOzetten, verhoging van de AOW en pensioenleeftijden en alles waarmee jong en oud iedere dag mee geknipt en geschoren wordt, wordt het kennelijk tijd voor een drastische systeemherziening. Hoe die er uitziet vertelt Luyendijk niet, en eerlijk is eerlijk, dat is zijn taak ook niet. De eerste stap is bewustwording en de tweede is …… ja wat eigenijk?

Wie moet waar iets aan doen? Komen de verandering van onze politici? Dat lijkt er niet op. Inmiddels 7 jaar verder in de crisis en diverse kabinetten verder kunnen we alleen maar concluderen dat het aantal opstappende corrupte bestuurders is toegenomen. Voor de rest is het business as usual. Komt de verandering vanuit het zelfreinigend vermogen van de sector zelf? Keep joking. Een van de steekwonden van de avond was ‘perverse prikkel’. Moet er dan eerst een mega crisis ontstaan?

Luyendijk kreeg te horen dat toen Lehman Brothers viel in 2008, de insiders – bankiers – hun moeders en vrouwen belden met de mededeling dat er meteen gehamsterd moest worden, de auto moest worden afgetankt, het geld van de rekening gehaald, goud uit de kluis, de koffers klaargezet…. Een mondiale financiële meltdown – bijvoorbeeld als de vele triljarden in derivaten niets meer waard zouden blijken te zijn, immers digitaal geld is vooral ‘vertrouwen’ – leidt tot het op slag stilvallen van computers, handel, pinautomaten, cashmachines etc. etc. Dit kon goed worden gezien in IJsland – een land vergelijkbaar met een middelgrote stad in Nederland – waar in een paar uur de schappen van de supermarkten leeg waren en niet meer werden gevuld. IJsland is trouwens het enige land in de wereld dat wel zijn bankiers in de gevangenis heeft gestopt en waar de problemen fundamenteel zijn aangepakt en opgelost….

Voorlopig blijft het nog even de kat uit de boom kijken. Experts zijn ijselijk wantrouwig en zien inderdaad maar een uitweg. Een nieuwe, definitieve crisis. Maarja wat dat zal brengen… ?

Intussen wil (en kan) de politiek geen verandering realiseren en beginnen de burgers dan maar zelf initiatieven: Onsgeld: http://onsgeld.nu met de Verleiders die volle zalen trekken en bijvoorbeeld de Peuro https://www.peuro.nl. Nog steeds een groeiend aantal burgers ondertekent deze initiatieven en er zullen er ongetwijfeld meer volgen als weer de volgende staatsbank zijn topmensen nog rianter beloont en voor de baliemedewerkers een volgende ontslagronde aankondigt.

Misschien wordt het tijd voor een paar simpele oplossingen: Basisinkomen? Of misschien wel helemaal van het geld af? De toekomst zal het leren. Belangrijk voor nu is stil te staan bij de vele signalen die klinken zoals die van Joris Luyendijk. Een fijn boek om te lezen. Misschien wel omdat we er zelf middenin zitten…

VOX Delft board positions for next year!

VOX is looking for new board members for the academic year of 2015-2016. And since I advise the board, that means I’m looking too.

SG wants to further the amazing ability of VOX Delft to call together socially-minded thinkers. They are always open to new ideas and freely experiment with the challenge of bringing diverse people in Delft together. All nationalities, all kinds of cultural backgrounds, students of all ages coming together to discuss ideas, events, technology, and ideology, no matter how far out. VOX is unique in Delft, and it’s hard to put into words. We had some video shot earlier this year, without audio, to give an idea of what VOX discussions look like at least. I challenge you to sit through it all and wonder what these people were talking about 😛


Who is it for?

Any student can apply, Dutch or international, bachelor or master, engineer or Industrial Designer (bad joke). Do you spend a ridiculous amount of time thinking about the world? Are you creative, critical, cynical, or devoted to exploring truth and reality? Maybe a little stubborn but also open to hearing other people’s craziest ideas? Definitely give the VOX board a heads up if you’re interested.

The board meets at least once a week to set up, prepare and evaluate the goings on of their weekly activities.
This includes playing with the established formats and inventing new ones,
spreading the word that VOX and its events exist, both physically and digitally,
seeking out expert voices and source material to anchor a discussion. The board is assisted by Studium Generale and usually meets in my office in the Library.

What does the board do?

Board duties include moderating a discussion when necessary, to ensure an open and creative talk.
Towing the line between expressive freedom, hierarchy, and structure.
Defining the vision and plan for VOX for the coming year.
Managing finances, keeping a schedule for the year and booking locations.
Buying food and drinks for the discussions.
Working with an international (and local) team, bridging cultures and concepts.
Collaborating with other associations.
Writing or blogging about interesting topics and conversations.
And generally spreading the word about VOX, so that we can “find the others” in Delft.
Expect to be involved anywhere from 8 to 12 hours a week, including the weekly events.

What do you get out of it?

The VOX board is the most laid back and dynamic board I know, and I’ve seen quite a few boards and associations over the past few years in Delft. This is an opportunity to learn leadership and organization skills, and what it takes to make sure that none of your fellow thinkers have to do their thinking alone. You get to create and manage a home for all the great minds on campus that aren’t fully satisfied with the college experience of beer, money trouble, and exams. That’s pretty special.

Finally, through SG, you can get financially reimbursed in the form of RAS-months. $$

Send your applications and/or questions to Leroy at info@voxdelft.com
check out facebook.com/groups/voxdelft

Green Guide Delft

Delft has a small but dedicated group of students who are taking matters into their own hands to save the environment. The Sustainability Community is creating a network and spreading information and awareness on sustainability, ecology, and green initiatives on campus, in Delft, and around the globe.

During the International Festival of Technology they launched the Green Guide Delft, available here in PDF form, which gives an overview of all the initiatives, organizations, shops, and some practical tips to live as green as possible in Delft.

Green Guide Delft

Green Guide Delft-8

Green Guide Delft-1


Vacancies on the board of Ecolution

Looking to do something meaningful in Delft?

Ecolution is an important student association, working to increase practical knowledge and awareness about environmental issues and solutions. And they need new board members for the coming year.

Read their call below and go to their website to find out more.

Ecolution Logo_square_green

Ecolution calls for new members!
Are you interested in matters of sustainability and circular economy?
Do you enjoy bringing people from different backgrounds together and trigger constructive discussions?
Are you , then, coincidentally looking for a student job at the TU Delft for the next year?
Because Ecolution has vacancies for new board members starting 30th of May!

Ecolution went through quite some re-arrangements. Now under the Centre for Sustainability, we want to bridge the gap between the three universities TU Delft, Leiden University and Erasmus University Rotterdam.
So many different disciplines, all necessary to contribute to our global challenges. However, this can only work if we join knowledge and forces. Through interdisciplinary field trips, workshops and other events between the universities we want to offer opportunities to meet and exchange knowledge, experience and opinions.
Thus, we are looking for active people that are interested in and care about interdisciplinary topics and discussions who want to engage in the preparation and coordination of activities between the universities (approximately 10 hours per week) for a full year.
If you are interested in the position, please send your Motivation Letter (500 words on why you want to be part of Ecolution and how you can contribute) and CV (one page with relevant information) to: ecolution@tudelft.nl. The deadline of the applications is the 18th of May. Be prepared for a talk in the week after. We are looking for people that are available for a start on the 30th of May!


“Will it help us in the sustainability rankings?”

Last week the TU Delft Sustainability Community hosted a lunch lecture on how sustainable the TU Delft campus is. After all, the university talks the talk, but do they walk the walk?

From the data presented by Industrial Ecology student Siebe Trompert it became clear that the TU Delft has a long way to go in improving its practices in energy use, emissions, and building occupancy (1/3rd of buildings are vacant but still heated!?), while water usage on the other hand scored pretty high. There were a bunch of 5’s, 6’s and one 7 in there, but of the eight different themes that were scored, none were overwhelmingly spectacular. The framework developed by Siebe and his colleagues to gather and frame the data into scores from 1-10 seemed pretty solid, but they still need more data to complete the overview. And of course they want it to be reproduced every year, so we can see if and how the TU Delft improves itself. (Please add to the data yourself by filling out their student+staff survey).

After Siebe’s presentation, Mart Lubben, chairman of the national student sustainability organization ‘Studenten voor Morgen explained the “Sustainabul” ranking system through which Dutch universities are scored on their sustainability. Out of around 20 participating universities, ours scored very near the bottom. Ouch.

Luckily, this wake up call did not fall on deaf ears.

Two elderly gentlemen were present in the crowd and said they were heading up a new outfit at the TU Delft that will monitor and introduce new measures for making the campus more sustainable (Sustainability Manager?). Great move!
It just seems a shame that their first question to the speakers was, “Will following this framework for sustainability scores get us higher up in the ranking?” Asking whether the framework will actually make the university more sustainable in its practices would seem like a less cynical way of going about improving the university. But those are the signs of the times.