King of the aerostudents.com

The creator of the aerostudents.com, Hildo Bijl (21) has recently returned from an internship at Nasa. He talks to Delta about his experience in Silicon Valley, his national frisbeeing ambitions and the future of his groundbreaking website.

Hildo Bijl began his aerospace engineering studies in 2006 at the tender age of 17. During his first-year he created aerostudents.com, a website that offers summaries of courses given at the faculty Aerospace Engineering (AE). His site quickly became the home site of many AE students. In addition to his programme’s studies, Bijl took additional courses at the Applied Physics and EEMCS faculties, followed the honours track in artificial intelligence, and was a member of the National under-20 Ultimate Frisbee (UF) team, all while maintaining a GPA of 9.1/10. He also recently completed a four-month internship at Nasa’s Ames Research Center.

Why did you choose to study aerospace engineering?
“I can’t say that I specifically wanted to study airplanes or space…. I love math, physics and informatics, and AE seemed like it had a bit of everything. As a child, I really loved numbers. In kindergarten, I did all of these ridiculous sums in my head as people reached for their calculators to check my answers. My family doesn’t have a scientific background, and I’m pretty much the only one in my family who is significantly above average. That might sound a bit arrogant, but it’s what everyone keeps telling me, so I guess it must be true.”

How did aerostudents.com get started?
“During the first week of university, I typed up some lecture notes and some people asked for a copy. Instead of constantly having to send stuff around, I figured it would be easier to put the notes online, so I got a domain and started building the website. At the time I was really into building websites and had experience doing it since I was 14. Gradually the number of files grew, as did the number of visitors, and pretty soon it seemed everyone knew about it. Nowadays the site gets over 1000 visits per day during exam periods.”

What was the most surprising feedback you’ve received for the site?
“I get emails from engineering students all around the world. One student from the US was very fond of the site and asked for advice on building a similar site for his university. Sometimes I have professors emailing be about help with setting up courses or writing summaries. I’ve never had such requests from TU Delft professors though….”

Have you received any negative feedback?
“In the first month I had answers to a mandatory practical on the site, so it’s understandable that I was asked to take them off. Occasionally I’ll hear that a professor doesn’t like my site because he or she thinks the answers to assignments are on it, but that’s not true. I often get emails with answers to practicals or assignments, but I don’t post them on the site.”

What will happen to aerostudents.com when you graduate?
“At the moment the site’s a bit outdated. I’m the only one who uploads files because the system is complicated and not expandable, so I’m building a new, more autonomous site. Several people volunteered to take it over once I graduate, but ideally it should be managed by the users themselves.”

What is your study strategy?
“Writing summaries for the site helps: I aim to finish and upload a summary two to three days before the exam. That way even if I’m a few days late, I’m still prepared for the exam on time. Also, I can never study more than eight hours a day; once I feel I’ve studied enough, I do something else. In the evening I always play Ultimate Frisbee. Lots of people don’t show up at trainings during exam weeks, but I find that when I just take a break and go to training, the next morning I can study more efficiently.”

How did you come to get involved in Ultimate Frisbee?
“During my first-year I tried several different sports, and UF was the one that spammed me the most, so I stuck with it [laughs]. As I got more
experienced it became more fun, and then I had the opportunity to join the National under-20 team. That’s when I really started loving it. We played practice matches with Belgium and France, and participated in many tournaments in the Netherlands. Now I’m training for the Dutch National team selection and coaching at my club, which adds up to 25 hours of UF per week.”

What was your internship experience at Nasa like?
“Ames is a very broad research centre with many departments: space, aircraft, intelligent systems, microbiology…. I worked in the intelligent systems department, on the use of adaptive control in aircraft.
Basically, if an aircraft loses part of its wing mid-flight, the adaptive control system can take over and fly the airplane normally. It was an interesting
experience, though I got the impression that they don’t work very hard at Nasa; I constantly felt like I was wasting time. The experience of being abroad and meeting new people was worth it, but I feel I could’ve learned what I did in four months’ time just by reading and experimenting on my own.”

What are your plans for after graduation?
“I’ll only be 22 when I graduate, which seems a bit too young to start working. I’d like to stay in school a while longer, study something else, do a PhD or take a break for a year and do research on my own. Lately I’ve been into
sci-fi writing, so I might publish a book. In the end I’d like to have a job in which I can solve problems in my own way; I’d like to be independent. I’ve got broad interests and I want to have fun in life, just like everyone else.”

Om het beroep aantrekkelijker te maken en het niveau van docenten te verhogen, stelt het ministerie van Onderwijs studiebeurzen beschikbaar voor leraren die zich willen ontwikkelen. Als ze een vervolgopleiding doen, betaalt het ministerie een deel van de kosten.

Maar van elke tien lerarenbeurzen gaan er acht naar leraren die sowieso bijscholing zouden volgen. Eén op de tien lerarenbeurzen wordt bij nader inzien niet gebruikt en ook niet uitbetaald. En slechts één lerarenbeurs sorteert effect: die zorgt ervoor dat een leraar zich bijschoolt die er zonder het extra geld niet aan was begonnen.

Iets beter werkt de subsidie voor opleidingen die langer dan een jaar duren: dan heeft twee op de tien lerarenbeurzen het bedoelde effect. Daarom doet het CPB een aanbeveling: trek alleen lerarenbeurzen uit voor langere opleidingen. En geef ze niet voor een opleiding waar de leraar al aan begonnen is.

Het CPB kreeg een unieke kans om het effect van de maatregel te meten. Want in het primair, voortgezet en speciaal onderwijs was er een run op de lerarenbeurzen, waardoor ze voortijdig op waren. Er waren geen bijzondere verschillen tussen de vroege en de late aanvragers, waardoor er een mooie controlegroep ontstond.

De leraren die de beurs net iets later dan hun collega’s aanvroegen en hem niet kregen, gingen in 73 procent van de gevallen alsnog een opleiding in het hoger onderwijs volgen. Alleen deden ze vaker een korte opleiding dan de gelukkigen die de beurs wel hadden gekregen.

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