The E52 High Tech Tech Piek Awards were awarded this year again to nine people who have made a special contribution in the field of high-tech technology last year, or for whom we have great expectations in 2018. In nine days, we portray each of the winners. Today: Fleur Besters, who won a Knaller for her commitment to Tech Playgrounds.

Read about the other winners here

The jury summarizes the achievements of Fleur Besters: “Talent does not appear out of thin air. And where for the PSV striker of 2032 is the Johan Cruijff soccer pitch, there is for the Steinbuch of 2040 the Tech Playground. Fleur Besters tirelessly and enthusiastically got a network of playgrounds off the ground where talent can develop at an early age.”

Children working on HackGlow at Tech Playgrounds

There are high expectations for the Tech Playgrounds. In only one and a half years, Besters and Dynamo Youth Work have set up a programme in which 120 children take part every week. For only €1,- at a time, children can play with technology after school. In the new workshop on the Lindenlaan, which is also the headquarters of the Tech Playgrounds, she tells enthusiastically about how it all started. “I have a son who is super technical, but he couldn’t do anything with that, not even at school. I thought, ‘There are probably more children who like this.’ That’s why in 2015, with the spontaneous help of others in the city, I organized a hackathon around Glow, where eighteen children and a lot of volunteers participated. It was a success and what struck me was that there were many people who wanted to help. Dynamo Youth Work approached me in 2016 to tackle this together in a larger way. We wanted to start at four youth centers, but there were already so many children who had signed up that we started in six places. There are now twelve workshops at youth centers, schools and the GGZE where there is a weekly activity, and we also organize workshops, for example for schools or at events of Brainport. That’s how we have certainly reached about a thousand to a few thousand children.”

“Skills are subordinate to motivation. As long as you are interested, you can participate”Fleur Besters, Tech Playgrounds

The aim of the Tech Playgrounds is to introduce children and give them a place to do what they really like. We actually want technology to become as normal as football, music lessons or swimming as an extracurricular activity. Especially in the Brainport region, where you see that a lot of people are needed in the technology sector, but also a lot of people with technical interest are located. The goal is to reach as many children as possible, at all levels. From craftsmanship with wood and participation in the First Lego League to micro-bit or Arduino programming. “Everyone can learn something from it, one learns to plan while the other learns technical or social skills. Skills are subordinate to motivation. As long as you are interested, you can participate. At school this is often different, I saw it again at the First Lego League last weekend. There you see many so-called ‘plus classes’ walking around. Only if you can do something extra at school, you are allowed to participate in such a team. We think that is really nonsense. We now have two FLL teams with children from nine to fifteen years old and they work together great. They come from as many as ten different schools of all levels and ages. That is fine. Children can do much more than you think. Moreover, many technical school projects are often temporary, the Tech Playgrounds are available every day of the school week.”

The strong growth of Tech Playgrounds was reason enough for the jury to expect a lot from 2018. In any case, Besters herself has enough plans: “We want to ensure that what we have built up now will become increasingly well-known by 2018. We now have a beautiful central workshop with tools, sponsored 3D printers, a laser cutter and plenty of space. We want the workshop at the Lindenlaan to be open five to seven days a week. In addition, we will be introducing our own program in three workshops, starting in February. We have developed a program where the children learn to build their own ‘shitty robot’ in sixteen lessons. In the various module, they learn all kinds of skills, such as soldering, 3D printing, laser cutting and making prototypes. We also want to look into the coming year to see if we can offer young people, such as school drop-outs or home stayers, a daily programme. We have a place here, where people feel comfortable and have the ability to learn to go back to study, volunteering or find a job. But we also need more volunteers. I would find it great if refugees, for example, could come here to play a part in our community. We are looking for everyone who wants to unleash their energy in helping children and young people. All you need to do is bring your knowledge and enthusiasm, Dynamo Youth Care takes care of the supervision.”

According to Besters, the rapid growth of Tech Playgrounds was not possible without the help of the people in the region. “We got a lot of stuff and help. People are willing to help us and that is very nice to see. And there are also more and more companies that want to help. For example, Brainport Industries College is looking for young people who want to participate in the Beroeps Begeleidende Leerweg. I think that together with Dynamo Youth Work we can be a connecting link here. I think it is very nice to see that within the technical world it is not about your age or level of education, but that people have a sincere interest in each other and technology. I think that this will enable us to have the different age groups work very well together. Technology is a connecting factor.”