TEDxTwenteU: Breaking Barriers

| Michaela Nesvarova

Another edition of TEDxTwenteU took place yesterday, 28th April 2016, at the University of Twente. Following the event´s title 'Breaking Barriers', many inspiring speakers presented their ideas on overcoming societal, technological and also emotional barriers.

Photo by: Jonathan Juursema

Several of these speakers were students, alumni and researchers from the University of Twente itself. The very first person to take the stage was, in fact, Jeroen Mulder, a Communication Sciences student from the UT. He joined the TEDx to share his personal story about 'coming out of the closet'.

'I´m gay,' Mulder began his talk. 'After I disclosed by sexual orientation to my parents, I started thinking about the term 'coming out of the closet'. We create the idea that it´s a single step activity, but that´s not how I experienced it at all. It´s a journey. A journey that may never end, because you might have to disclose your sexual orientation to people you meet all your life. It´s a journey that requires breaking little barriers all the time. It hasn´t been easy, but thanks to this journey I learnt so much about myself and society and I think everyone deserves a journey like this.'

Clean water for everyone

During the second session of TEDxTwenteU, Kitty Nijmeijer talked about providing clean water for everyone in the world. Kitty Nijmeijer is currently the professor of Membrane Materials at the Eindhoven University of Technology, where she started working last year after spending 15 years at the UT. 'We have nice clean water from the tap in the Netherlands, but we take it for granted, we forget how unique that is,' said Nijmeijer.

'There are 800 million people worldwide with no access to clean water. In fact, 16 people will die during my 8 minutes long speech because of no access to clean water. But we can change this! It´s not a dream, the technology is already available. We have membranes made of plastic that we can use to purify water, because the membrane pores allow only clean water to pass through,' explained Nijmeijer and she immediately demonstrated the process - after pouring dirty water from a puddle through the plastic membrane, the previously black water became so clean water that Nijmeijer could instantly drink it. 'Clean water for everyone can be a reality.'

Let´s play!

Kitty Nijmeijer´s eye-opening talk was followed by Tom van Dijk, a UT graduate who is on a mission to make change fun again. 'Changing behavior is so hard, because it´s not fun. So let´s make it fun through gamification!' Tom van Dijk started his presentation about the unique concept of using game elements for learning and changing behavior. 'You play games already. You use apps for running, you collect points at supermarkets - because its motivating. Everybody played when they were young. Playing is natural behavior.'

'Let me give you an example of gamification,' continued Van Dijk. 'I´m involved in a project to make truck drivers more energy efficient. Gamification has four elements. First one is 'call to action', such as asking the truck drivers 'Do you want to be the best driver in Europe?' Then we engage them by giving them challenges like using cruise control. We reward them with points and we create positive emotion that makes the drivers want to repeat the behavior. Then their behavior is changed, because they wanted to be the best driver in Europe. And at the same time, they are helping the environment.'