Student Rick Kouwen was convinced he was going to study medicine. However, after a day of taster sessions, he was convinced he was not going to do so. “A technical study was actually much more obvious. I’ve always liked tinkering with mopeds and making things. Mechanical engineering was therefore the perfect match”, says Rick. Meanwhile his heart lies with mechatronics and he almost has his master’s degree in Robotics from uTwente in his pocket.
From lecture to graduation project
Rick is conducting his graduation research for IMS, a partner company of Perron038. “During a lecture at Perron038 I heard about the PRISMA project and the use case of IMS. Through project leader Soheil Arastehfar (Franhofer Project Center) the follow-up research came my way and I became very enthusiastic about it.” For IMS, Rick does research on reinforcement learning, a form of machine learning.
To explain the term reinforcement learning, he makes the comparison with training a dog. He explains: “If you want to teach a dog to sit, you give it a treat when it does it. The dog makes a decision based on your command. Is it right? Then he gets a reward. Then you teach him something new. That is how reinforcement learning works: breaking down a complex problem into simple issues. With all the small steps, the system eventually becomes smarter and smarter.” Simplifying the problem is the core of the technology. Rick applies this within the PRISMA project for the correct adjustment of car headlights. IMS is developing a solution for car manufacturers.
Machine vision and AI
The technology Rick is studying is seen by some colleagues as a black box. Rick: “Together with my colleague Wouter, we try to get people involved in this topic and the project. Because it is really a matter of unknown makes unloved. It is cool to see that as a student I can take on a bit of an expert role within the company. IMS gives me the freedom to take on this project independently and I am learning a lot from it. I feel at home here.
Looking ahead, Rick is sure that he will continue in this field. “My interest is currently in machine vision and artificial intelligence. Becoming a specialist in that and working for a specialist company seems very interesting to me.” says Rick.
Perron038 as a real makers-hub
During his graduation period, Rick can regularly be found at Perron038. “I think it is a fantastic environment with so many students and companies together in one place. People are very open here. You can ask anyone anything and they take the time for each other. In some companies, you are immediately bombarded with non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), but that is not the case here. It is a real makers’ hub and that is a great learning environment for students. You can put a robot anywhere, but the mindset and openness of people here makes the difference.”
Follow your curiosity’ is the advice Rick would like to give other students. “I didn’t necessarily follow the standard path. I have always followed my curiosity and interests and made choices based on that. When you do that, you start working based on your intrinsic motivation and that gives you a lot. Look for an internship or graduation research based on that attitude. Don’t be afraid of something that might not be prescribed by school, but call the company you are curious about yourself. No you can’t, yes you can.”
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