It is impossible to imagine life without technology. As a matter of fact, technical innovations are set to play a major role in shaping our future. Which is why it is more important than ever that children are introduced to it from an early age. “Technology is in everything. It’s shifting more and more into other directions as well. Nowadays, for example, they are even looking for technically trained people in healthcare. Technology is becoming more and more predominant and is widely applicable across all sectors. You can’t imagine any job without it,” Manon Pijnenburg points out.
In a playful way
Pijnenburg is co-owner of the high-tech machinery manufacturer AAE based in Helmond, the Netherlands. She is also chair of the Hightech Foundation Helmond-De Peel, where 50 companies have joined forces to promote technology in the Helmond-De Peel region. She says: “Collectively, you make more of an impact than all the companies can achieve on their own. It is important that children and students are given the right kind of information about the technical sector. This applies to all other sectors too. It’s about them being able to take everything into consideration and make the right educational and professional choices for themselves.”
According to Pijnenburgh, this is still lacking sometimes, which is why it needs to start during elementary school. “This is not always easy because technology is not always at the top of the priority list there. But as partners, we can make sure that technology is brought to their attention in a playful and accessible way.”
Adults have an important role to play
The promotion of technology is also done through partnerships with other companies and organizations. The aim is to reach as many children – but also adults – as possible. After all, parents and teachers play a major role in the child’s decision-making process. Stefan Slenders, manager of KOP Bureau, states: “In the Kempen region, we see that more and more young people are opting for technology. But there is still a lot to gain in this area. Parents and teachers play a crucial role in this respect. One of our focal points is to show these adults all the opportunities that technology has to offer.”
The The KOP (Kempisch Ondernemers Platform) is an umbrella business association made up of four Kempen municipalities, namely Bergeijk, Bladel, Eersel and Reusel-De Mierden. “It’s a subregion within Brainport Eindhoven. There are 440 manufacturing companies in Kempen that employ around 7000 people. We have set up the KempenTech program in order to ensure that these companies have well-trained personnel in the future.” Via this program, young people can become acquainted with technology throughout the school year, both inside and outside of the school buildings. “We are also planning to develop a special program to increase understanding of the link between agriculture, innovation and technology. We’re able to show young people the importance of technology in food cultivation this way,” Slenders believes.
Lianne van den Wittenboer, senior project leader for education at Brainport Development, is also fully committed to promoting technology in education. For instance, she develops independent teaching materials for elementary and secondary education together with companies in the region. “In all regions, you see that classes are now embracing this. The lesson plans are packed with assignments from our regional companies. Teachers recognize that having students learn about technology from an early age is extremely important. We are supporting them in introducing this into the classroom in an accessible way,” Van den Wittenboer adds.
A lesson plan has been developed in conjunction with AAE. In this example, students learn through a hands-on assignment how a dispensing syringe is made: “It’s a lot of fun to have them think about how you put straight lines on a round tube,” She adds: “It’s unique in our region that we can use materials from our own companies. This allows students at home or in the classroom to get a good look inside a company. What’s more, it fits in with the curriculum; it can take the place of other teaching materials.”
Dutch Technology Week
Slenders, Pijnenburg and Van den Wittenboer spend the entire year promoting technology. Although they regularly look for ways to work together, they will be joining forces once more during the Dutch Technology Week from 31 May to 5 June. Pijnenburg: “We have been a partner of the DTW for a long time and AAE takes part in a lot of events. The speed dates are one example of this. As a company, we find it important to do our bit. You need to invest at the front end to be able to ensure that there is enough influx of new staff for the future.” The speed dates are being held via the DTW Online Platform. Students from secondary schools and tech companies engage in discussions with each other here.
“We organize various activities throughout the year via the Hightech Helmond- De Peel Foundation. But the DTW is a kind of finale week, when everything comes together,” Pijnenburg goes on to explain. “Due to corona, there is a lot that can’t take place, but there is also plenty that is possible. The reach is now wider than usual thanks to all the online activities. Fortunately, we are also able to do a lot in the classrooms, so I think we have found a good mix. It’s great that through our collaboration with Brainport Development, we are now reaching all age groups and educational levels.”
Getting to know regional companies
A few examples of activities during the DTW are the Live Tech Battle for grades 5 and 6 (9 and 10 year-olds), and A Company in a Box for grades 7 and 8 (11 and 12 year-olds). “In the latter activity, children work in groups to create a regional company in a box. These will eventually be displayed in various storefronts throughout the region.”
“Aside from that, we have also developed eighteen high-tech teaching kits where we offer a business in a box through workshops. We are starting these in the DTW and they will then be issued throughout the year via a lending system. This way, the class really gets to know a company and their technology.” Slenders adds: “The teaching kits are aimed at taking as much work as possible out of the hands of the teachers. They don’t need to have a lot of technical knowledge. It has been set at a relatively low technical level.”
Pijnenburg cites NTS Botech as one example: “Among other things, they process granite for various technical applications. We worked with them to create a teaching kit that allows children to fashion soapstone into jewelery.” Techteam Binqi will also go live during the DTW. “This is a game that allows children to learn about the technology behind everyday products in their own homes. For example, how does the air get into a soccer ball? And how are wheels fitted under an office chair?”
And that’s not all. For one thing, during one DTW Talk, Van den Wittenboer, and Thea Koster, chair of the Techniekpact, will discuss with each other and other participants the importance of promoting technology. “Here, we focus on the question of how we can make it more tangible,” says Van den Wittenboer. “Besides that, we still have the Mission Tech technology event, which KempenTech joined this year. About 15,000 students from grades 5 to 8 from all over the Brainport region are taking part in this.” The AutoTech teaching kits for grades 3 and 4 and Designing and Printing for grades 1 and 2 (4 and 5 year-olds) from elementary schools will also be presented during the DTW.
Collaboration between the education and business communities
Along with his activities at KempenTech, Slenders is also contributing via the DTW Talk Business Communities: the importance of collaboration with the education sector. Together with Jan-Paul Kimmel, social responsibility manager at NXP Nijmegen, and Birgit Goumans, deputy director at Kusters Goumans, as well as Inge Wouters of ASML, he will be discussing how business and education can work together to encourage young people to discover their talent for technology. He says: “If you work in technology, then you are doing your bit to find solutions to societal problems. You have a bright future ahead of you. The notion that you will end up working in some grimy factory is long gone. They are all wonderful companies that feature interesting kinds of work.”
Although it is hard work to get everyone on the same page, children, parents and teachers, things seem to be moving in the right direction. Van den Wittenboer concludes by saying: “Lately, that pivot has actually materialized. It’s nice to see that everyone is so enthusiastic about it.”
She does realize, however, that it is a process of gaining awareness and that this takes time. “If you ask children what they want to be later on, they still often choose the stereotypical professions, such as a doctor. They then mention that they would like to make people better. But you could be a surgeon who needs to operate on people every day, or you could work for a company that makes parts for the medical industry. In the latter case, you are involved right at the front end of innovations that might actually be able to avoid operations. It is important that children pick up on this. After all, becoming a doctor is no longer the only way to make people better.”
Events linked to the promotion of technology during the DTW:
Speed dates between the education and business communities. Tuesday, June 1 and Wednesday, June 2, 2021.https://www.dutchtechnologyweek.com/events/speeddates-onderwijs-techbedrijven/
Live Tech Battle. Friday 4 June from 10 am tot 11.30 am Free admission. Register at: https://www.dutchtechnologyweek.com/events/live-tech-battle/
A Company in a Box. Monday, 31 May through to Friday, 4 June. Participation is free. Register at:https://www.dutchtechnologyweek.com/events/een-bedrijf-in-een-doosje/
DTW Talk The Importance of Promoting Technology. Monday, May 31 from 11:15 am to 11:40 am. Participation is free. Register via: https://www.dutchtechnologyweek.com/events/het-belang-van-techniekpromotie/
DTW Talk Business Communities: the importance of collaboration with the education sector. Monday, May 31 from 11:55 am to 12:20 pm. Participation is free. Register via: https://www.dutchtechnologyweek.com/events/bedrijfsleven-belang-van-samenwerking-met-het-onderwijs/
Technology Event Mission Tech. Monday, 31 May through to Friday, 4 June. https://www.dutchtechnologyweek.com/events/mission-tech/
AutoTech. Monday 31 May – Friday 4 June: https://www.dutchtechnologyweek.com/events/autotech/
Designing and Printing. Monday 31 May – Friday 4 June. https://www.dutchtechnologyweek.com/events/ontwerpen-en-prenten/
Teaching kits: kick-off during DTW. https://www.dutchtechnologyweek.com/events/hightech-leskisten/
KempenTech Meet & Match. Thursday, June 3 from 9 am to 11 am. Theme of this first edition is Agro-tech, keynote speaker is Lotte van de Ven, CEO of Vencomatic. Students from Kempen secondary schools, teachers and entrepreneurs will have a conversation with each other about this topic.https://www.dutchtechnologyweek.com/kempentech/
The largest escape room in the Netherlands. Monday, May 31 – Friday, June 4. https://www.dutchtechnologyweek.com/events/de-grootste-online-escaperoom-van-nederland/
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