Former NASA ambassador and actress, Nichelle Nichols once said, "Science is not a boy's game, it's not a girl's game. It's everyone's game. It's about where we are and where we're going.” Liselotte Kockelkoren is a living embodiment of this sentiment. Currently studying for her master’s degree in Manufacturing Systems Engineering at the TU/e, Liselotte is one of a growing number of women attracted to study in science and engineering. In the years she spent earning her bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at the TU/e and now continuing with post-graduate study, she has seen the number of her female peers steadily increase. Liselotte views the increase in women choosing to study in a technical field as a positive change and regularly experiences how a woman’s perspective on a project can add value and insight. She enjoys “making dreams come true with technology.”
Liselotte grew up in Limburg as the middle child of three, playing sports and music like her peers. She always had an innate talent and interest in math and science. Her parents and biggest supporters encouraged her to follow the natural progression of her skill set and pursue study in technology. “Just try it”, they said, to any trepidation she expressed, knowing full well that she had what it takes to succeed in the field. After visiting the TU/e, Liselotte was convinced and energized to work towards a career in technology.
At the end of her bachelor’s degree study, she decided to take another chance. Inspired by the success of the 2013 Solar Team Eindhoven’s win at the World Solar Challenge in Australia, she chose to apply for a spot on the next team. After a lengthy and grueling application process, Liselotte was selected as the only female on a team of 23 hoping to make it to Adelaide once again in 2015. For the next year and a half, she and her teammates took a break from traditional study and focused single-mindedly on Stella Lux, the solar powered daughter of the 2013 Adelaide winner, Stella.
The experience of working on the Solar Team was like nothing Liselotte had known before. Over the course of 18 months she thrived on the work and matured both personally and professionally. Working with over 100 partners, companies like VDL, NXP, and TNT, to name a few, plus an array of businesses at the High Tech Campus, the Solar Team was able to draw on the expertise of professionals in a wide range of fields. The sponsors also donated precious time and essential materials to the project. Through the process of interacting with these specialists and learning along with them, Liselotte began to realize how the unique environment of Brainport is able to spawn the ideas and designs it has become known for. “Eindhoven is a great place to work on a project like this,” she says. “It is a tight community full of enthusiastic partners. The Triple Helix allows for collaboration as industry is open to students.”
During her time on the Solar Team Eindhoven, Liselotte earned real-life experience that will surely benefit her as she continues her studies and eventually begins work in the hi-tech sector. Her interest and aptitude for optimization poised her perfectly for a role as the team’s account manager. She thus became a part of the huge network that defines Brainport’s Triple Helix concept. Interacting with university presidents, CEOs, and other industrial, executive, and academic powerhouses was certainly a new experience for Liselotte but allowed her to gain confidence and share ideas within a community of experts. “It is really important to make and maintain relationships,” she learned. “People from companies thinking along with the students,” Liselotte says was invaluable in making the project successful.
The product of these relationships and collaborations was Stella Lux, the energy positive solar powered family car. In October 2015, Stella Lux was put to the test. Over the course of 6 days, Liselotte and three teammates alternated at the wheel. Powered by the sun, Stella Lux drove over 3,000 kilometers through the heat and humidity of the Australian Outback from Darwin to Adelaide. After an additional day of practicality assessment, Stella Lux was pronounced the winner of the 2015 World Solar Challenge. The Solar Team and all of Eindhoven took pride and rejoiced in the victory that was due to the hard work of not only the 23 Solar Team members but all of their local sponsors and collaborators.
Reflecting on the success of the Solar Team, Liselotte says, “I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.” After helping to select the members of the next team, she has now returned to her academic studies and plans to graduate with her master’s degree in the summer of 2018. Her recent experiences make her eager to get to work in the field of technology thanks to the unique opportunities she has received to learn and thrive within the Brainport region.
To learn more about Solar Team Eindhoven and the progress of current and past teams, please visit: http://www.solarteameindhoven.nl.
Written by Rory Williamson © Brainport Development