A High Tech Ontdekkingsroute as the headliner of the Dutch Technology Week takes you to all the High Tech Hotspots in the region. Companies from the Brabantse Kempen will represent themselves at the Kempische Bedrijventerrein in Hapert. On the 25th of May, there will be forty activities in which children can participate. Put your name on a badge with caption letters, measure sugar accurately to the tenth of a gram, do a test, make buttons, put together a racing car. These activities are part of a two-day programme KempenTech, which starts on Friday 24 May.

“There is a lot of manufacturing industry in the Kempen”, Willeke of the Pol says. She is the project leader of KempenTech and works for the Huis van de Brabantse Kempen. Van de Pol refers to small and medium-sized companies in the municipalities in the Kempen and to the large companies such as VDL and MS Schippers. Residents of the Kempen region often do not know what is going on behind the facades of these companies, according to Van de Pol. “At KempenTech, everyone, young and old, technology fan or not, is welcome to take a look behind the scenes at the Kempen business community.” 

KempenTech is being held for the sixth time. On Friday there will be a networking fair, a networking lunch and a symposium which is organised by the Kempisch Ondernemers Platform (KOP). These gatherings are mainly for entrepreneurs. There is an educational programme specifically for children on Friday. Pupils from the seventh grade of the primary school and pupils from the lower secondary education (vmbo) are invited to this programme. There will be a tent with room for three hundred children. The forty activities will be carried out by the primary school pupils in groups, and the secondary school pupils will help with the activities and give explanations. There is also a competition. Five groups of vmbo students made a video. Each video focusses on a technical company in the Kempen region. A short interview with an employee and a manager, some images to give an impression. That Friday, the 300 primary school pupils watched the videos and vote for the video that they liked the most. The winner will be announced at the end of the education programme. Most of the activities are also held on Saturday, during the High Tech Discovery trail.

“The great thing is that companies themselves organise activities that allow children to experience the technology”, Jan van der Sanden says. He is a volunteer at the Kempisch Ondernemersplatform (KOP), a club that wants to make children from the Kempen region enthusiastic about technology. Six years ago, he himself devised most of the activities.  

When Van der Sanden retired six years ago, he joined KOP. “It turned out, that there was no one with experience in education.” He stood in front of the classroom for more than forty years. At first, he wanted to be a technology teacher but became a primary school teacher. With his experience, he devises different ways of working to bring technology to the children. Among other things, he coordinates the educational programme and the activities that the various companies organise during the KempenTech.

“I’ve been following the initiative to bring children and businesses together since the beginning, about ten years ago.” Van der Sanden coordinates the activities of the technology coaches. The primary schools in the Brabantse Kempen may use a technique coach; a volunteer who “does technical things” with the pupils. “It is my belief, even when I was a teacher, that when children have a talent for technique, you have to let them do things. Technology is not about talking about it or watching films about it, it is about doing it. There are children who have technical talent, but they can’t find it without searching for it. You don’t discover the talent by reading a book or searching the internet. You have to experience it with your hands.” Together with the technology coaches, Van der Sanden devises activities that companies can undertake with children, during KempenTech but also during the school year. “A company excursion for example. If there is no physical space at school to ‘do technology’, then you do it within the companies.” Van der Sanden notices that more and more companies are contacting him to discuss how they should set up an instruction room, for example. “How can they set up such a room so that they can take care of all children and all young people who want something to do with technology?”

If the young participants of the educational programme do not attend to all the technical activities on Friday, they still have a chance to do so on Saturday. Most of the activities take place that day as part of the High Tech Discovery trail. Parents, grandparents, and grandmothers are also welcome, anyone interested in technology, Van de Pol says.

Van der Sanden does not know exactly which activities are organised. “The children can come and experience it themselves at KempenTec,h” Van der Sanden says. “It’s up to the companies themselves to come up with an activity. RAXTAR (makes, among other things, construction hoists, red.) from Veldhoven, has an activity for children with a crane.” The industrial automation company VerAutomation, from Middelbeers, lets children make their own batteries. Cor Boon, senior account manager VerAutomation: “It looks different from the battery in the shop, but it shows how a battery works.”

Photos © Max Kneefel