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Junction: A chat with Dirk-Jan van den Broek

This Junction was conducted on the 13th of December, when we interviewed Dirk-Jan van den Broek. He contributed to about 20 Vonks that appeared between December 2005 to February of 2011. Dirk-Jan takes us back to studying in the 2000’s, what being active at Scintilla was like and describes a typical Vonk article. The Electrical Engineering department was still in the Hogekamp with Applied Physics, the Langezijds was in use as a lecture hall, and some things that never change.

Who are you; work life, study life, preference of music?

I am Dirk Jan van den Broek, I am from Roosendaal and I started studying here in 2004. I took my time and then did my PhD in the chip design group of Bram Nauta. I have now worked across the street for 5.5 years at AnSem, a company from Leuven that has now been taken over by Cyient, a large Indian company.

I started in a new do group at the time, VrijgezEL. One of the do-group parents was a prospective roommate of mine. It was a nice do-group that appealed to me at the time. I think it remained with a one-year do-group in the end, so it has not grown in generations, as with the Annies and the Elcos. (Editors note: it can be found in the do-group tree article!)

I like all kinds of music, especially electronic music. I also do Lindy hop dancing, so that means dancing to Swing jazz music from the 20s and 30s, but also modern Swing Jazz music. My taste in music actually varies a lot. I’m always looking for new music that moves me, so I don’t really have a favorite artist in that sense.

Active at Scintilla; start, Vonk membership

I started with the Parent’s Day committee in my first year, and then it is logical that in your second year you will be asked to organize the introduction weekend and then well, gradually you do more and more committee work and at a certain point you will be asked to join the board with a group. I think that I was already a bit active in De Vonk before my board year and during my board I was also actively involved. It was always very satisfying to me. I liked being busy with copy and I also really like the graphic work, so I also made some covers and designed some articles.

Later, I converted a number of rotary dial telephones into mobile telephones. Of all those iterations I have also written articles in the Vonk, the idea actually came from Scintilla that it would be cool if we had a drink with the board in the Tombe (then, in the basement of the Hogekamp) and someone would walk in with a ringing phone on a tray, shouting “There’s a phone call for the board!”.

I first made a version with an old Siemens telephone. It still had a serial port on the connector, so you could interface with a microcontroller there and then I used a hard disk arm for the ringing, because if you want to leave the original ringer in it, you have to make 100 V. That is quite a lot from a battery. The second version was actually based on a Bluetooth module that you could control with a small app on your phone. The third version was really stand alone with a small printed circuit board and a GSM module with an 100 V generator, all the bells and whistles. All the hardware of the phone intact, a battery on it and yes, it is a self-contained phone that you can take with you on the train and then you will receive phone calls with a lot of noise.

Studying in the Hogekamp building

The practical room was on the 10th floor, so you had a great view during the practical. You always had problems with interference from various transmitters that were on the roof, because it was the tallest building in the area, you saw 3FM on all your oscilloscope measurements. Scintilla itself was indeed In the cellar, together with Arago and they shared the beer-cellar de Tombe there (featured in this article). There was always some nice rivalry between Scintilla and Arago. There were also lecture halls and the best-known lecture hall was in the tower, on floor 4. It was a beautiful classical lecture hall with a kind of wooden grandstand. It all creaked so you couldn’t come in quietly if you were late.

There were not so many lecture halls that there was enough capacity for all lectures, so we also had to go to Langezijds, which is now the Gallery, for example. We also regularly had lectures there, because the building is stretched so long that you enter through the main entrance and we would have lectures all the way on the side of the flagpoles. What usually happened was whoever came in first would walk all the way through the building to the lecture hall. He would open a window there and then everyone just went in through there.

What was studying like?

The first year in particular took a lot of getting used to the new pace compared to secondary education, all the new calculus that is very different from what you are familiar with, in combination with moving to a room, and all the freedoms that come with it. Once I was in my master’s degree, then it all progressed nicely, then you have really chosen a direction where you want to go for it and you are interested in all subjects. You can of course take 5 years to complete your bachelor’s degree and still graduate cum laude, simply because of that hard cut between bachelor’s and master’s.

You’ve reached the end of the article! I hope you enjoyed Dirk-Jan’s stories about studying in the early 2000’s. Dirk-Jan went on to do his PhD research on Full Duplex Radio’s in an European cooperation project. Then, he helped setting up a branch of AnSem NV here in Enschede. Recently, he started a new job at Teledyne DALSA last January.