Humans of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science

Ilse Bakker

Project leader Programme of Innovation in Mathematics Education (PRIME)

Wherever education is provided, it is important to keep innovating this education. Students and their interests and passions are constantly changing, and we have to continue to evolve with them. That is why we give the floor to Humans of EEMCS who are actively working to improve our education.

"The most enjoyable thing about my job is the people I work with. The atmosphere within our programme is good. I really appreciate the interesting coffee conversations and the constant flow of jokes. In addition, I get to work with genuine experts, which allows us to develop beautiful and innovative teaching materials in an efficient way. I get excited about my PRIME colleagues' innovative ideas in the area of mathematics education, and enjoy unleashing my own creativity on those ideas. To support students, we develop - thanks to the enthusiastic efforts of our Teaching Assistants - more innovative teaching materials, besides our regular teaching materials such as slides and online homework questions. With the PRIME Graphics Group, for instance, we create interactive animations and games, and their main goal is to give students a better geometric interpretation of mathematical concepts. By being able to manipulate objects, turn them around or literally play with them, students get a better feel for a mathematical subject.

I constantly ask myself: is the course as we offer it now in its most ideal form? What more can we do to help students in their learning process? And also: what material can our teachers work with comfortably? We are constantly making adjustments.

At PRIME we strive to teach in relatively small groups, and that’s why larger courses like Mechanical Engineering are taught in parallel; the same math lesson is taught at the same time by several teachers. That’s why it is very important to coordinate this all well. It really is a team-effort. 

We provide mathematics courses for almost all Engineering studies across TU Delft. Because of this, our work has a big impact. If we make improvements, a few thousand students will benefit from this. I find that very motivating. Students let us know that they are very happy with the PRIME structure and the blended learning methodology we use. In particular, we get a lot of great feedback on the interactive lectures and the online homework questions.

I can see that many people in our faculty are good at working with their heads and that is very powerful. Many colleagues have a keen eye for detail, which often leads to good substantive discussions.

At the same time, I think it would be good if we at EEMCS got out of our heads more often and also connected on another level. I am convinced that a greater ‘fun factor’ contributes to a better, but also more efficient working culture within the faculty. For example, I think it would be super fun if some artistic people from EEMCS turned the stairwell into a beautiful work of art, or if we could play Tetris on the building more often (Electrical Engineering has already done that once), or if we could organize a sport event together, such as a relay. Of course, there are already many great initiatives, let's develop them further!

I like to draw parallels between music and our work. When we manage to connect on a different level, we can also work together better as a band or orchestra. From my prior training as a music teacher at the conservatory and in organising EWI in Concert, I have gained experience in conducting and arranging. I have learnt that everyone has a unique and important role in music and that is also the case in our community. One person is an amazing virtuoso, like a violinist. And the other is a headstrong guitarist who, apart from bringing harmony, occasionally likes to go his own way. We depend on each other; without a drummer we won't groove, but the drummer is not nearly as powerful without the bass. Sometimes things can get tough, but it can be wonderful to work in dissonances at times. It keeps you on your toes. But then it is crucial to have that connection, because otherwise we all become solo players and don't play together.

So I advocate for a higher ‘fun-factor’ and gladly commit myself to keeping our faculty swinging. Literally, but also within work settings like PRIME."