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Tomorrow is good.

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 07.51.59In a weekly column, alternately written by Lucien Engelen, Maarten Steinbuch, Carlo van de Weijer and Daan Kersten, E52 tries to find out what the future will look like. All four contributors are – in addition to their ‘normal’ groundbreaking work – linked to the SingularityU The Netherlands, the organization that focuses on spreading knowledge about technologies that can provide solutions to the problems of our time. This Sunday, it’s Maarten Steinbuch‘s turn.

By Maarten Steinbuch

SU Steinbuch

Last week ‘our’ team Storm Eindhoven returned home. After 23,000 km on the electric motorbike they completely designed and constructed themselves, having toured the world in 80 days. I joined them in Paris for the final stage, and it was clear to me: they have come back differently from how they left.

On the first day, the engine broke down on the way to Munich – just after having been waved goodbye by 2,000 people in the heart of Eindhoven! Just imagine what a melancholy feeling that must have given the team (and indeed their daddies and mommies!). After two years of preparation…

The motorbike could be repaired, just to be breaking down again the very next day: another night of blood, sweat and tears had to do the job. Later in the trip, waiting to cross the Turkish border, eleven hours of waiting in the midst of the night, then a president suddenly dies with all safety measures coming along, the breathtaking scenery suddenly exchanged by endlessly boring roads. Batteries that all of a sudden can’t be flown from China to the US, and only three weeks later a triumphal feeling when your team appears on one of the giant billboards on New York City’s Times Square. And then, when you return to Europe, having visited countless schools, universities, companies and government officials, and you want to make the last journey, the second bike appears to still be waiting for transport in Chicago….

The more than twenty young students from Team Storm Eindhoven have been getting the experience of their lifetime: working with and in other cultures, continuously operating as a team, all those technical challenges, dealing with the media and the press, and learning to counter the setbacks. Every single member of team Storm Eindhoven has become stronger: more personal endurance, the power of being agile, a stronger personality. It’s what I often tell my PhD students when they’re just getting started: the learning process of doing a PhD is that you have super positive experiences as well as deep valleys of misery which you have to get through. You discover your limits on the way, and they will shift. It’s also what I recommend companies in order to go along with the rapid development of technology in our society: be agile, resilient, and able to adapt. The young students of Team Storm Eindhoven have really ‘learned’ this, just by doing it.

The great thing is, team Storm is not our only student team I am proud – and a little bit jealous – of. If only we could have done this when we were students… There’s Solar Team Eindhoven with their family car powered by solar energy, the first in the world, of which version three has just started its track. And there’s Team BlueJay with the first drone bar in the world, and from the TU/Ecomotive project team Amber emerged, now as a start-up that will offer a mobility service with self-developed electric car.

We are world champion in robot football for the third time already, and we have student teams in the field of medical technology (new, cool!), electric racing cars, cars and buses on formic acid, and in building with ice. We even have a team that’s collaborating with students from MBO and HBO to design an autonomous Formula 1 racing car – and building it.

Learning by doing is really put into practice in a way that has reached a very high level. we can never match the learning effects of all this with giving lectures!

It is a privilege to work in an environment where I am surrounded by young people every day, showing that they can perform very specific tasks, who amaze me with their ambitions and ideas, and give me hope for the future. They teach me how you can learn differently, with a clear view on the future. As a teacher and as a father I am proud of our ‘children’, and I am also pleased that our team Storm Eindhoven has returned home safely!