Interdisciplinary cooperation is a success in first edition of WET-week

HZ throws students into the deep

The organisation cost blood, sweat and tears, but it was worth it. On the last day, everyone looked back with satisfaction on the first edition of the We Explore Together week. Last November, about 300 students from eight studies worked in interdisciplinary teams on more than twenty practical assignments in Het Groene Woud.

Eugène de Kok, editor HZ Discovery

"A successful first edition", said Pieter-Bart Visscher of HZ Nexus on the last day, just before the students showed their results at the market for other students, teachers, researchers and clients. "We have organised project weeks before, but never with so many study programmes at the same time. It seemed as if all the studies felt the will and necessity to participate. Because of the scale of the project, we started making preparations in the spring. It took a lot of time to set up this event, but it is certainly worth repeating."

The WET-week took some getting used to for everyone. "We wanted the interdisciplinary character of the week to be reflected in the groups," says Visscher. "After all, the outside world is also asking for such an approach to social challenges. We therefore looked closely at the teams, but because not all students knew each other, some groups had an awkward start. Fortunately, most of them made up for it afterwards."

Aim of the week

The aim of the week was for students to learn how to work together, how to communicate with the client and how to approach professional practice in the best possible way. The students worked on assignments from companies and organisations such as Zeeuwind, Zorgsaam, North Sea Port, Concert at SEA and Zeelenberg Architecture. All assignments had an overlap with one or more Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This is where the similarities end. The assignments ranged from designing a circular, bio-based cool down pavilion for Concert at SEA, researching a cost-effective building concept for homes for the elderly and drawing up a sustainability strategy for Damen to devising a method for calculating the cost-effectiveness of Zeeland's sewage and pressure pipes. The latter was an assignment of Waterschap Scheldestromen.

Scale-model

Zeelenberg Architectuur asked a group of five students from HBO-ICT and Civil Engineering how to build sustainably in the Leenheerenpolder, a large intertidal area near Goudswaard. Their advice was to build houses on piles, raise the footpaths, use only water for transport and leave a large part of the nature reserve untouched. The students based their design, which they brought to life with a scale-model among other things, on a survey and an objective test of the sustainability of a building project based on that survey. The students included things such as the effect of the construction on flora and fauna, the innovations and the number of jobs that a project provides.

In this assessment, the project in the Leenheerenpolder received a score of 7.2 for sustainability, just enough according to the team. As far as they are concerned, projects must achieve at least a seven or higher before they can be implemented. "It's good to see that ICT students can also make a model", architect Jean-Paul Janse smilingly began his response, pointing to the 3D model. "Zeelenberg Architectuur has been doing projects like this for ten years, all over the world. We call them landscapes of the next generation. Then it's great if young people are involved in thinking about it. Students are enthusiastic, have refreshing ideas and look seriously at something like sustainability. I can well imagine that an idea like this will eventually be incorporated into a kind of sustainability label."

Cryptocurrencies

A number of research groups of the HZ were closely involved in the WET-week. The lectureships Data Science, Asset Management and Biobased Building contributed assignments and leading lector Robert Trouwborst presented questions on possible relevant applications of bitcoins and blockchain. One of his groups looked at the advantages and disadvantages that blockchain technology offers for encrypting data storage, for example of water quality data from automatic sensors. The other group used a temporary ice-cream parlour in the restaurant to find out what it would take to get HZ students and staff to pay with bitcoins. The team interviewed customers and looked at what the HZ needs to do technically to allow bitcoins as a payment method. The students developed an automatically generated QR code for the amount to be paid. "Their research revealed surprising results," says Trouwborst. "It showed, for example, that 36 per cent of the 50 or so students questioned have bitcoins and that more than half want it to become a legal tender. There are uncertainties about such a survey, but it shows that young people are open to alternatives to debit cards, iDeal, Visa and Mastercard."

Diverse picture

Trouwborst was enthusiastic about the WET-week. "Het Groene Woud was buzzing during the week. Everyone was very enthusiastic. You do see a diverse picture in terms of students. My groups started working passionately right away, but other students seemed to miss the classroom aspect, the structure and guidance. However, I think it is good that such students also learn what it is to think for themselves about what they can add to knowledge through research. That's also how it goes when they get their diploma." According to Trouwborst, the working method used during the WET week will soon become commonplace at the HZ. "The JRCZ will open its doors in the coming academic year. There everything revolves around multidisciplinary work. The students will be much closer to reality."