André Kuipers looks to the future with ICT students

Fontys Information and Communication Technology
A special guest Wednesday at Fontys. André Kuipers told a packed room of ICT students how important the information you can get from space is. He should know. The astronaut saw the earth twice as few will ever see it: small and fragile

Kuipers was invited as part of the theme week being held by Fontys ICT. For five days, some 200 students following the Mediadesign direction will be subjected to difficult topics, based on the 17 sustainability goals of the United Nations.

"In ICT, you have different profiles, of which Mediadesign is one. Here we train students in the most creative direction," lecturer and co-organiser Nick Welman explains. "Because we are such a large university of applied sciences, we felt the need to create a kind of community feeling for all our students. That is the rationale behind this week." 

The theme associated with the event is out of space. "Media designers are increasingly focusing on all humanity when coming up with a product. It has to contribute to a better world. That is why we chose out of space, with the message that the world is in need. Is there another civilisation somewhere in space that can help us with climate, refugee or food problems? That is what the students are addressing this week."

They are doing so by tackling a variety of different challenges in groups. Earlier this week, they already received workshops from sociologist Theo Ploeg or worked on assignments. Today, the visit of André Kuipers was on the schedule. A big highlight for student Kim Jansen. "Super fat that he will be here soon," she says just before the kick-off of André's performance. "I find everything to do with space very interesting. The fact that he is from the Netherlands makes it even more fun. This is undoubtedly the fattest part of this theme week. I think everyone will attend this. If students weren't there this morning, they are now." 

A few minutes later, André Kuipers took to the stage. He takes the audience on a trip down memory lane. He talks about the first space flight, about the first moon landing and about the great source of information that space is. Satellites are used for weather forecasting, for GPS, for communication, even for espionage. But they are also used for signalling climate change. Water is disappearing, while drought is increasing. Forest fires are becoming more frequent. And plastic waste is becoming an increasing problem in the oceans.

We have to be smart with the earth, says Kuipers. We face more and more extreme weather and natural disasters, but we can do something about it. "Build dams, make Africa greener, eat less meat. With technology, we can get very far," said the astronaut. "We have a beautiful planet, but we only have one. We have to be careful with that." 

The thrust of his story? Students need to know where to get information from. "They need to know what is going on with the planet and how we measure it," he said in response to a question from Bron. "The information and data you can get from space is much better than what the human eye signals. This independent, neutral information should be used to reach politicians, as well as citizens. People in the ICT profession play an important role in getting the data that is available to the rest of the world."


The teachers team: Lody Aeckerlin, Paul Reekers, Nick Welman (bovenaan midden), Petra Vuijicic, Maikel Putman