Training alongside financial aid for UT student teams

‘Developing soft skills leads to better cooperation’


Students at the University of Twente have been competing with student teams from other universities for years to see who can create the best solar boat or electric superbike. The teams, which have different members every year, try to improve their creations constantly. The technical knowledge required for this comes from the university and regional companies that assist the teams, while the money for the annual challenges comes from sponsors. 

In short

  • The student teams working on the Electric Superbike and the Solar Boat at the University of Twente have been able to count on financial support from Twente’s business community for years. Companies also function as a source of information. This year, ETC Nederland chose to help students develop their soft skills as well, to perform even better as a team. 
  • Focus XL organised an ‘inspirational afternoon’ for both teams, which will be continued as far as all parties are concerned. 


Global Goal

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ETC, a company that produces and develops ultra gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment in Almelo, has been making financial contributions for years. This year, however, they have decided to add another factor that should contribute to the success of these teams from Twente: both teams received soft skills training to help them work better together. “This improves performance”, says Lianke Gerdzen, Communications Officer at ETC. “Soft skills are hardly addressed during their studies. The focus is mainly on the transfer of information. The students in these teams come from different programmes and only work together for one year. This is already an enormous challenge if you only consider the technical aspects, but working together also requires skills.”

Communication styles

Bart Sauer from Focus XL in Borne trains professionals daily and was immediately enthusiastic about getting to work with the teams. “These teams have to achieve quite a lot in a short time. They work together intensively, so it is easy to bump heads. We made a personality analysis with everyone. Everyone has their own way of communicating, people-oriented or task-oriented, for example. Knowing what style you have allows you to learn from each other, but it also makes it easier to understand how someone else communicates. Understanding where something comes from enables you to take it into account”, he clarifies. “Some people communicate in a more general way while others go into more detail. That can cause resentment; you can feel misunderstood. If you know how other people communicate, that is less likely to happen.” The inspirational afternoon was valuable for both teams, according to Bart. “People normally run from task to task. This way, students were able to reflect on the question: where do we stand as a team, and how can we strengthen the connection and, therefore, perform better together? Miscommunication can cost a lot of time, and therefore money.”

Refreshing experience

One of the students who participated in Focus XL’s training is Mirjam Davidse, communication manager of Electric Superbike Twente. “It was a refreshing experience”, she says. “It is nice that companies like ETC do not only want to help us on a technical level and with knowledge transfer but that there is attention for the people in our team.” She explains how important it is for team members to get to know each other well. They apply for a place on the team independently, so they do not know each other at the start. “We learnt what someone likes or does not like to hear by taking part in this inspirational afternoon, but also what their strengths are and how the team can benefit from this. An example? It could be that someone has excellent ideas but finds it difficult to share their ideas in the group. If you are aware of this, you can ask them about their thoughts explicitly during a meeting, which makes sharing the ideas much easier.”

She says that the team returned for another inspirational afternoon later. “We got back together for a follow-up of the first afternoon so that the things we learnt would not go to waste.”

And that is precisely what ETC had in mind when they offered this inspirational afternoon. “We are pleased that we can offer support in this way, in addition to a financial contribution”, says Lianke. “We plan to do this again in the coming academic year. We like to invest in students. Introducing them to ETC is only a part of why we sponsor the student teams. Our employees also develop in this area, and we would love for more people to experience this!”


Date: 14 June 2022 |

Source of tekst: ETC & Focus XL |

Author: Maaike Thüss