Monday 11 july 2022
Jeroen: ‘I looked you up on Google before our conversation, Norbert. I'm not very good with the internet and social media, but I found something about you.’
Norbert: ‘Haha, how funny. Did you also find out what my hobby is, by any chance?’
Norbert: ‘Yes! I cycle quite a lot. I used to do it at a high amateur level, and it still holds a special place in my heart. If I could, I’d cycle to university every day from my hometown of Haaksbergen. Besides, I regularly tour with people from Haaksbergen or on my own.'
Jeroen: ‘Amazing! That touches me on a personal level because I also love cycling. I always ride my bicycle from Oldenzaal to the university. Can you tell me something about what you do at UT?'
Norbert: 'I’ve been a workshop manager and practical leader at the Faculty of Engineering Technology since 2003. That means that I’m in charge of the planning and content of the practicals for students of Mechanical Engineering, Industrial Design, and Creative Technology. I also manage the activities that take place at the metal and model workshops. Designing test setups or making parts for student teams, for example. I started out doing this alone, but now I do this together with ten colleagues, for whom I’m responsible.'
Jeroen: 'You work a lot with PhD students, then. What interests you about that?”
Norbert: ‘Mostly their dedication. They can really enjoy the research they do. They often want to do everything they can to work towards a high-quality end result. I love seeing that. For some it’s truly a struggle. Some people love to do research, while writing a dissertation is not their thing. I often see problems arise because of that.’
Jeroen: ‘Based on what I hear from you and what’s on the internet about you, you do a lot with design in your work. What’s your dream design?'
Norbert: ‘At UT there is a work of art called 'The Thing'. It consists of six floating poles, which are kept in balance by steel cables. The tensile force is in the cables, while the compression force is in the posts. A bicycle can be made in the same way. The tubes of the frame then absorb the compressive force and the tensile force goes to the frame via cables. I made a design based on this concept.’
Jeroen: ‘Does this mean I’m talking to the creator of a future top brand? I like to cycle on a KTM brand bicycle, but maybe in ten years I’ll be on a real Spikker.’
Norbert: ‘Haha, who knows! Such a design does have a flaw, though. It’s not very practical, because the cables of the bicycle, for example, run in different places than normal. But you should see it more as art. As a design bicycle it can really be an eye-catcher. You can't sit comfortably in a Rietveld chair, but it does look super nice. That’s often the case with art.’
Jeroen: 'Do you have a bicycling hero?'
Norbert: ‘As a Dutchman I think Mathieu van der Poel is a champ, of course. But what Dylan van Baarle did at Paris-Roubaix is also great.’
Jeroen: ‘For you, Mathieu is kind of a figurehead. Perhaps your team also looks up to you as a manager. Do you see characteristics similar to those of Mathieu?’
Norbert: 'I think mainly my perseverance and the patience you have to have at UT. As a result, I could always continue to develop. The freedom that I got with that was very important. When I first started at UT, my boss was often absent. I was left to my own devices. That allowed me to do my own thing and that has made me who I am today. I started as a cooperating foreman and am now a manager leading ten employees. You can get those kinds of opportunities at UT, but you have to seize them yourself and give them direction.'
Jeroen: 'You work a lot with young people and students. What appeals to you about that?'
Norbert: ‘Their fresh ideas. Thanks to my years of experience, I quickly think in a certain direction. Students often do and make things that may not be right. But they think as broad and big as possible. All in a different way. I love that. Uninhibited students are also very interesting for companies. It gives them ideas that they don't think of at first.'
Jeroen: 'Suppose the end of your career is approaching. What do you hope students will remember about you as a person?'
Norbert: 'Then I immediately think of the moment when I was faced with the choice of what to study. Electrical engineering or mechanical engineering? I attended an information evening about mechanical engineering. The teacher convinced me right away. He spoke about the profession so passionately. I loved that. I hope that my students look at me in the same way. It can be just a small thing. Even if it's just: "That Norbert Spikker said this and that to me back then, and I’ll always remember that." If I can achieve that, I'd be very happy.’
Jeroen: 'I think we can talk for hours. I really enjoyed speaking with you.’
Norbert: ‘Thank you for the conversation. Maybe we can chat about cycling in college sometime. That should be fun. Hopefully we get to see each other soon on campus!'