Self-driving buses and the northern lights

Canada was the number one choice, but corona made it impossible to travel outside Europe last year. Skiing seemed like fun, so Chantal van Casteren (19) ended up going to Oslo for six months. The third-year Civil Engineering student did a minor at Oslomet University. With an international group of engineering students, she made a plan to reduce the number of cars in the centre of Oslo. In her spare time, Chantal visited the most beautiful spots in Norway. She even saw the northern lights four times! All in all, it was a fantastic experience.

Noorderlicht

‘I never regretted my decision to go to Oslo for a second,’ explains Chantal. ‘It's a very nice and safe city with lots of shops and beautiful parks. I would definitely recommend everyone to study abroad for a while. You do have to save up for it and you need to figure everything out, but it's so much fun and totally worth it. Studying in a different environment, working with people from all over the world, living in a different country, speaking English, learning a new language ...’

Which one of three projects?

When Chantal packed her bags in August, she didn't know yet on which project she would be working. ‘I had signed up for three, and would find out there for which one I had been selected. Pretty vague, but I wanted to go abroad so badly that I thought: it will work out.’ And it did work out. The Smart Cities project turned out to be very broad, so there was room for the group to determine its own focus. Chantal explains. ‘It was quite difficult, also because we had to get used to each other, but there was a supervisor who helped us formulate the research question.’

Goal: fewer cars in the city

Chantal's project group focused on self-driving vehicles. Chantal explains. ‘Public transport is excellent in Oslo, but there are still many cars in the city. We looked at the percentage of cars we could eliminate with a system of autonomous buses. We discovered that there were two neighbourhoods in the city where there was no public transport within a ten-minute walk. Our self-driving buses would pick up customers in those neighbourhoods. Upon arrival in the centre of Oslo, the busses would drop them off at a central point where they could transfer to other forms of public transport.’

Autonomous bus via an app

The group developed a useful app for this. The customer sees on the app where the nearest pick-up point is and immediately makes a reservation for the trip to the city centre. Chantal explains. ‘We had made a simulation that showed the reduction of traffic density on the city centre streets if people started using these vans. In the end, we presented our plan. I am satisfied with the result, and I learned a lot from other people's perspectives.’

Three-day weekend

When you are away from home, you want to explore your surroundings of course. Therefore, Chantal and her friends planned the project work as much as possible on the days that they also had classes. This often left them with a three-day or sometimes even four-day weekend. ‘I had never been to Norway before, but now I have seen many places in different parts of the country. During a holiday week, I drove around the northern part with some friends. And in December I went to Finland with a group.’

Lapland and the stunning Lofoten

Lapland was cool, but also the Lofoten, an archipelago off Norway's upper left coast, were magical. Chantal explains. ‘I walked and hiked on various islands and mountains. It was wonderful. I also drove around a lot and saw the northern lights a couple of times.’ You probably know that the northern lights are not just something you see anytime. The weather has to be clear, you need to be in a dark place, and sometimes it only appears for a very brief moment. So you have to make an effort to see it.

Northern lights in Oslo

Chantal explains. ‘It helps that there is an app that tries to indicate where the northern lights are, but it's not always accurate. Sometimes it shows where it is and then you can't see it because it's cloudy. Or it doesn't indicate anything and suddenly you see it. I even ended up seeing it in Oslo. That was quite unique, because normally you don't see the northern lights in the south. This time the activity was extremely high.’ Chantal took some nice pictures with her camera, because it's difficult to capture it with a phone.

Minor or internship abroad

Back at THUAS, Chantal is focusing on a specialisation in hydraulic engineering as part of her degree programme. However, her mind often drifts to Block 1 of the next the academic year. Perhaps she can fill her minor programme with an internship abroad. It would only be for ten weeks, which is not that attractive for companies, but she will try anyway. And for the summer she has holiday addresses in Italy and Spain, the result of her time in Oslo.

Would you like to know more about the degree programme? View the website of the Civil Engineering degree programme at The Hague University of Applied Sciences