People young and old, people of the city and region of Groningen: at the Open House of Connections, which took place last Saturday 24 June, visitors were introduced to the University’s work on a sustainable future at the new hub for learning, working, and meeting. UG scientists carried out dazzling experiments and gave stimulating lectures to a wide audience. Rector Magnificus Cisca Wijmenga and member of the Board of the University Hans Biemans gave out cake.
Photo's: Peter WassingText: Thomas Vos
‘Dad! Mom! Let’s check out that robot!’ A girl of about six years old runs through the House of Connections with a serious look on her face. The robot she is headed towards is called Pepper, a care robot designed for the elderly to talk to—even in Gronings—and do physical exercise with. The kids are also having fun with Pepper today: the girl invites Pepper for a round of Hoofd, schouders, knie en teen (head, shoulders, knees and toes, a Dutch children's song).
Today, the UG welcomes anyone who would like to visit the brand-new House of Connections at the Grote Markt. Researchers and other staff members from the Schools for Science and Society, the University of the North, Science Shops, the Young Academy Groningen, and Teaching Academy Groningen, are taking participants on a journey along a ‘discovery trail’. Visitors are able to participate in experiments and interactive (art)installations, and listen to lectures on diverse subjects.
The House of Connections fills up quickly in the morning. Over a hundred visitors get to know the building and learn more about research on subjects such as regional dialects, healthy ageing, and hydrogen. Staff members from the University of the North are there to discuss the latter. They let young and old generate energy by themselves using a hydrogen bike and a pendulum arm. A boy turns the arm with full conviction, water bubbles arise, and he pushes a button. The electricity he has generated is now powering tiny race cars on a toy track.
At noon, the public heads towards a small stage in a bright space looking over the Oude Ebbingestraat. Rector Magnificus Cisca Wijmenga enthusiastically discusses the new UG location: ‘This truly is a meeting point for those within and outside the University of Groningen. It brings me joy to see so many people who want to learn about what we do as a university. Only together with you can we answer important questions relating to sustainability, digitization, health, and energy.’
Hans Biemans then deftly cuts an enormous House of Connections cake and hands out pieces together with Wijmenga.
There are several flash lectures of about fifteen minutes throughout the day. Media researcher Scott Eldrigde II (Faculty of Arts) talks about (ant)agonistic journalism. Eldridge: ‘Journalism today is much more than objective reporting. We need to consider new journalistic media which deviate from the norm.’ Associate Professor Jiří Kosinka (Faculty of Science and Engineering) gives a lecture on an entirely different subject: Virtual Ray Tracing. Together with colleagues he has developed an impressive digital tool which enables experimentation with light and reflection: ‘Thanks to this software, game developers and film animators can create images that are even more realistic. For instance, it allows you to create incredibly realistic reflections in mirrors.’ He uses the film Frozen as an example, which takes place in an icy world showing many complex reflections.
When the visitors leave, they are asked one more question: what do you consider the most important theme for a sustainable future? They are given stickers which they can stick on the huge windows at the entrance to the House of Connections. All the themes are shown there. Making a choice proves difficult. An elderly visitor says: ‘I actually consider all of them to be important. But if I have to choose, I am choosing effective prevention for more healthy years. Considering my age, that's a somewhat selfish choice, ha ha.'
Meanwhile, new visitors continually pass through in order to be amazed. The Jantina Tammes School, which focuses on digitization, hands out ‘cookies’ at the entrance alongside the text Please accept our cookies, as a nod to website cookies A boy takes them with enthusiasm. A few seconds later he is gone, on a journey of discovery in the world of science. You’re never too young to start one.
View the video report of the Open House of Connections below.
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