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Students and citizen science

April 8th, 2022 – We – Ria and Lieke – work within the New Technology lab of the TOPFIT Citizenlab. We are both employees of the University of Twente. As such, we think it is important to give students the opportunity to do research as well. In the past few months, we have done that by having students from the university work on a project, which also involved close cooperation with citizens. The students came from different studies and worked together in a project team of six students on a challenge from society.

In this case, the challenge came from Wijkvoorziening ‘t Doesgoor. They organise various activities in Goor with the aim of connecting young and old and contributing to the welfare of people in Goor. One of the activities they organise is a walking group. Twice a week, residents of Goor can walk in a group, accompanied by a physiotherapist. Afterwards, coffee is ready for those who feel like it. Although ‘t Doesgoor already makes a very good contribution to society, the organisation is very open to new ideas and suggestions. The walking group, for example, wondered whether there might be (technological) opportunities to support them.

The students devoted themselves to this question. By walking along with the group and asking questions at the same time, they were able to get a clear picture of the questions that the group of walkers had. Based on this, the students came up with ideas, which were then discussed with the walkers. In the end the walkers and the students together came up with possibilities that could strengthen the group. Two issues and corresponding recommendations came out of this project. Firstly, the walkers wanted to make the walking group more widely known. The suggestion was made to place an announcement in local newspapers. Secondly, the question was whether there could be a possibility of walking outside Goor, so that there would be more variety in the routes. Since people did not want to spend too much time travelling, the suggestion was made that the group could go walking in other municipalities in Twente. Because the students only had 10 weeks for the assignment, it was not possible to put the ideas into practice yet, but both ideas are now being considered within ‘t Doesgoor, among others as part of a new student project.

You may have noticed that the solutions in this project do not require (new) technology. Although within the TOPFIT Citizenlab we mainly focus on improving health and well-being by means of technology, we can of course never predict in advance what the desired solutions will be. We see technology as a means to an end, not as an end in itself.

All in all, it is great fun to challenge students by getting them to work on a project in concrete terms. The questions they ask and the creative ideas they come up with are always inspiring for us. By allowing the students to work on social issues, we also ensure that, outside the university, more is known about the work of the university and the possible contribution of the university to questions from citizens. If you have a question that students can sink their teeth into, let us know!