The Challenge: There is no better way to start a degree programme

Students starting the HBO-ICT degree programme have various expectations. The Challenge is a fun way for new students to immediately explore the broad HBO-ICT professional field and gain more insight into the degree programme. Together with students Youssra Ezzahi and Chris Golemi, coordinator and lecturer Mirabai Vosteen shows how challenging this 20-week project is. A project in which we link ICT to social challenges. By doing a lot together, the students also develop a sense of social connection. Read more about The Challenge here.

Starting with The Challenge

After the first semester, HBO-ICT students can choose from five differentiations. This allows them to focus on the part of the broad professional field that suits them. In the graduation phase, they can zoom in even further on what they like. All that starts with The Challenge. That is: landing at the university of applied sciences for six months, integrating, making connections and getting a realistic picture of what you can expect later as an ICT professional. 

Taking on The Challenge

Mirabai Vosteen is one of the coordinators of The Challenge. ‘A student can start the HBO-ICT degree programme in The Hague, Zoetermeer or Delft. Each does it in the same way: by accepting the challenge to contribute to a better world with a completely new ICT solution. We have linked The Challenge to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - set by the United Nations in 2015 - which are intended to put an end to poverty, inequality and climate change by 2030. We did this deliberately, because ICT plays an important role in tackling these problems.’

Phases of three weeks

The first three weeks start with an introduction and a number of preparatory workshops, after which groups of four to six students are formed. Mirabai: ‘We then take them on a very structured tour of the world of ICT. After three weeks, each group has to come up with a new ICT solution. What problem would the students like to tackle -considering the SDGs? We guide them intensively in this process. The Challenge has an agile structure. The students develop their solution in groups in phases of three weeks. At the end of week two, they receive feedback to take it a step further. At the end of each phase, they receive feedback on the presentation of their results up to that point.’

Excelling in the creative process

By taking up The Challenge, the students not only prepare themselves for the choice of a differentiation, but says Mirabai, ‘They also get the space to excel in a creative process. They see the connection between the HBO-ICT subjects, and they get a good view of the degree programme as a whole. Moreover, at the end of The Challenge they deliver a product developed by themselves that really works.’

Bracelet for festivals

Last autumn, Jeroen Sellmeijer and his group developed a way to measure harmful bacteria in seawater. ‘The application indicates live whether the water is clean enough to surf or swim in. So when you get to the beach, you no longer run the risk that you will be going into polluted water.’ At the end of The Challenge, they had a prototype ready that they could be really proud of. ‘It worked perfectly!’ 

Jealous of first-year students

Fourth-year student Youssra Ezzahi has chosen the Software Engineering differentiation. She is quite jealous of Jeroen: ‘When I started the degree programme, I heard that there would be a big challenge the following year. A 20-week project in which all aspects of HBO-ICT would be combined into one big problem that the first-year students had to solve. Last year, I saw what great things the first-year students created. It gives you the opportunity to learn to communicate with each other and to grow in your personal development. I definitely think that The Challenge helps students to better orient themselves to the rest of the degree programme.’ 

Each in their own role

Jeroen Sellmeijer fully agrees. ‘We orient ourselves on the subjects while working. We work in teams, just like later in a company. Since the third or fourth phase, we have each been given our own role. Everyone now takes on a task that they are good at. That is how I knew for sure which HBO-ICT aspect I liked best. That was Software Engineering, without a doubt.’ 

Passion for ICT

Does The Challenge fulfil its purpose? Mirabai - like Youssra and Jeroen - says a resounding yes. ‘The students learn from each other. One explains things to the other. To be able to do that, one has to have learned everything. A passion is created for the ICT solution that they create together. That makes me very happy.’ 

Want to know more? 

View the video about The Challenge or visit the special page.