Project Based Learning is one of ATLAS’ unique characteristics. A total of 4 projects are completed by each student, varying in nature depending on the focus of the semester. The second-semester project revolves around emerging sustainable energy systems.
Semester projects are a key focus in the programme because they prepare students for later working environments. A combination of self-directed learning and collaboration ensure the required content is covered and necessary soft skills such as communication and organisation are gained, all whilst accounting for a diverse range of interests and backgrounds within the group. Mandatory courses running alongside the project provide additional opportunities to receive guidance. In the case of the second semester, its social science course ‘Innovation in Business and Society’ had assignments allowing for more detailed analysis of certain project-related stakeholders based on theories and methods that were presented in lectures.
What Joop is describing is the interdisciplinary aspect of projects. Each student has a personal interest or focus which adds to the depth of analysis. During disciplinary deepenings, someone like Joop can research more on the technological side but must learn to present that information and combine it with the societal or political sides covered by other group members. This is the key to understanding not only the technology but the values and interests underlying it (Leonie Große-Boes, Class 2021). During her first semester project, Klaske Houtsma (Class 2021) and her group visited an elderly home to interview key stakeholders first-hand, now she is able to re-apply what she learnt to this semesters stakeholder deepenings. It is this ‘real-life situational’ side of the projects which she says she enjoys the most.
As part of the project’s structure, students must come up with scenarios encompassing the foreseeable future of the chosen technology elaborating on all relevant aspects and perspectives. These scenarios encourage outside-the-box thinking and pushing boundaries.
It is all about making justified assumptions and reasoned decisions based on research. This is not only an aspect of the curriculum but generally an important skill to learn. There is no mark scheme for life. We need to learn how to interpret the information we are provided with and how to build a picture of what to expect based on this. Through the scenarios, we are able to practice this skill in a safe environment and improve over time.
Along these lines, soft-skills are another focus of the semester and the project. With an average group size of eight, the chairing and coordination necessary takes practice and has significant attention placed on it. Groups must manage to ensure all vastly different perspectives are covered to similar extents and combined in an effective manner. To help the project chairs with this, team leadership meetings are arranged with the semester coordinator, providing a safe space to talk about the difficulties of managing a large group, how others have worked around issues and what resources might help.
Overall semester projects are the focal point of interdisciplinarity within ATLAS fostering learnt communication and dedication to a long-term project, seeing it through from the beginning stages to the final outcome.
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