Preliminary lecture "Design for diversity" by Sophie Krier, January 30 2020. Photo İlke Ercan.

Preliminary lecture "Design for diversity" by Sophie Krier, January 30 2020. Photo İlke Ercan.


In the academic year 2019-2020, University College Roosevelt ran a pilot year for the newly founded Engineering department (ENG). In designing a practice-based, technology-oriented program attuned to Liberal Arts and Sciences education, UCR has focused on "asking students to create small-scale sustainable solutions. Small-scale products can be designed, tested and implemented relatively quickly, so students can go beyond basic prototyping. Modern technology allows small products to be highly functional and create a lot of impact."

In an effort to provide engineering students with a sound technological, aesthetic and ethical framework for their course work, instructor Dr. Ercan invited among others Sophie Krier to give a workshop in the Spring 2020 Engineering project Sensing Systems for Sustainability. In this experimental course, the students were asked to imagine and prototype microcontrollers with built-in sensors. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and ensuing difficulties with teaching practical classes, students focused on data analysis and communicating their ideas through a video pitch. Sophie Krier introduced the students among others to the open design movement and to biomimicry as design principles.

In the same period, Zeeuws Museum hosted the exhibition “Nooit Meer Werken” (No More Work) which reconsidered the communal aims, value, and social significance of work in relation to technological developments. The exhibition included works by James Beckett, Jeremy Deller, Janne van Gilst, Manon van Hoeckel, Christian Jankowski, Lisette Olsthoorn, Helge Prinsen and Ottonie von Roeder.

Work is changing rapidly for us all: flexible working has become the norm and machines are increasingly supplementing or replacing manpower in more and more professions. It is clear that work will play a different role for young and old in the future. This exhibition explores the meaning of work through eight works of art, each of which employs a different strategy for dealing with the changing work landscape: calling for resistance, attempting to hack the system, preparing us for a life after work or keeping the memory of work alive through rituals. – Zeeuws Museum.

In a series of online encounters, the Engineering department thus teamed up with Zeeuws Museum to see if the museum's curatorial questions on work and technology could function as a reflective framework for the experiments with sensing systems of the engineering students.

Last week the students took part in a digital tour of the exhibition with the help of Prezi (visuals) and Zoom (guidance and discussion). The teams brainstormed how they would design the casing for their sensors, taking into account how, why, where, and by whom their sensors would be used. The students also considered the societal implications of using sensing technologies and gathering data, particularly in terms of creating new jobs, and building/eliminating economies of labor. – Source: Engineering Pioneers Blog, April 6 2020

The collaboration allowed for all involved to exchange perspectives, and to reflect on the societal stakes of the project.

The assignment was multi-layered; students were asked to think about the urgency of the sensors; to make a physical casing design, to make a proposal for where the sensors would be activated, and speculate how an intergenerational diverse public would ideally be able to interact with the sensing system and think about which partners they would like to include in the realisation of their sensing system. Choosing specific ways of collecting data and thereafter acquiring knowledge is crucial. For whom, and then how and when and what exactly and where? What is the route you take in the research before a data processor collects data? To whom is this knowledge of value? – Dorine Zelders (Educational department, Zeeuws Museum)


Group 1. Fertilisation and Soil Sensing

Derin, Laura, Zoë and Ruben searched for ways to stimulate a more conscious use of fertilizer. Watch their product pitch below to find out what they came up with.

Blog post: Future food and soil data

Group 2. Air Quality Sensor

Kristina and Veerle designed an autonomous sensor, which monitors the air quality in one of the busiest ports in Europe. Using Arduino, they have made a sustainable (and affordable!) sensor to keep track of air pollution. Watch their product pitch below.

Group 3. Water Quality Sensing System