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Meet our pioneer: Bart Verhagen

In Brainport Eindhoven we change the world, because here we develop key technologies that change society. We can only do that because of our pioneers. So we’d like you to meet one of our pioneers: Bart Verhagen.


In Brainport Eindhoven we change the world, because here we develop key technologies that change society. We can only do that because of our pioneers. So we’d like you to meet one of our pioneers: Bart Verhagen.


Who are you?

My name is Bart Verhagen, I am 25 years old and I live in Schijndel.

What do you study?

After secondary school, I first did an intermediate vocational education (in Dutch: mbo) ICT employee management BOL 3 and ICT management BOL 4. Last week I completed the ICT & Business course at Fontys Hogescholen cum laude. Before this I did an internship at Taxonic for six months, where I did research in Linked Data.

What is Linked Data?

Linked Data is a technique for publishing heterogeneous data sources on the Internet. Every software package structures data in a specific way, so data becomes isolated. Linked Data is flexible with changing structure and content, thus encouraging data integration and merging. This unlocks the potential to query all available information on a single topic, allowing data to be used outside of the context in which it was created. Take, for example, a search engine like Google and search for ‘Mars’. It will give you results about the planet, the Roman God, the chocolate and the artist. These kinds of search results can become very interesting when you do research and want to use knowledge from other domains.

What do you love about Linked Data?

You can do so many things with it. I did research for Taxonic to gain insight into how Linked Data can be used to optimize maintenance schedules for civil engineering structures of Rijkswaterstaat. This concerns structures such as bridges, dikes and viaducts. Their maintenance and inspections are carried out by various parties in the chain and must be properly coordinated. You want to prevent a highway from being closed twice a year for major maintenance, which causes a lot of inconvenience to traffic. But it’s complex and time-consuming to realize maintenance schedules that combine maintenance visits and allow chain parties to work together to minimize the inconvenience of maintenance work. You have to take many factors into account: maintenance tasks, environmental variables, required people and materials, etc. Moreover, you want to have structured information about this and connect it to each other. To do so, it’s necessary to first translate one structure to another, but this often turns out to be a difficult and time-consuming process. Linked Data connects all this data, so that more efficient schedules can be created that combine maintenance work by Rijkswaterstaat and contractors. Linked Data makes it possible to work on more complex issues. Therefore, it can be considered complex. That makes it very challenging for me.

"Through trial and error, I know better and better what I like and don't like and what direction I want to go further in."

Bart Verhagen

Why did you study ICT?

My stepfather was an electrical engineer and is now a draftsman and work planner in the electrical industry. I really looked up to him and I thought it was so cool what he did. That's why I started doing electrical work. But during my internship in construction I found out that this was not quite what I wanted. It didn't get me excited. My mother noticed that I was always working on the computer and asked me why I wasn't going to do something with ICT. I thought that was a good question and then I started doing ICT. Incidentally, ICT is not for everyone who spends a lot of time on the computer. Gaming is different from wanting to know what techniques were used to make that game.

Do you want to do a master's after this training?

I've always had my eyes on a master's degree. For me, the master Information Management at Tilburg University is the next step. It’s an extension of my current education. I still have to do a pre-master for half a year for that.

Have you done anything besides your education to develop more skills?

During my secondary education I did an internship in London for six months. For this I had approached a Dutch company from Eindhoven, which has an office in London. There I had the time of my life and I was introduced to the adult world for the first time.

From the moment I started the training at Fontys, I had registered for the Business Academy. This is a program in addition to the study program for students who are looking for more challenges. I participated in that for two years. An event is organized, a product is made and research is done, whereby the event and the product are part of the research. The first year it was about FinTech (Financial Technology) and the following year it was about Cyber ​​Psychology, the psychology behind technology. In doing so, we wanted to use technology to subconsciously influence the public and then make them aware of the influence that technology has on their lives. This turned out to be too complicated to do within a short period of time, so we simplified the project a bit.


I also participated in international projects, where you work on a project with international students for a week. In Kolding, Denmark, the project was about Smart Mobile, where we had to design a mobile application. We were taught how to get inspired and what is involved in designing. It was quite common, but working with foreign students was a fun and special experience.

For the project week in Rome, we had to think of a way to market the range of a winery in a specific country. Market analysis and marketing are of course separate from ICT, but they are very much focused on entrepreneurship.

In the 2019-2020 school year, I was a member of the student faction of the central participation council (CMR) of Fontys. The CMR assesses Fontys-wide strategic and tactical subjects and discusses them with the Executive Board. In it, the council represents the interests of 45,000 students and 5,000 employees. We each had our commissions and portfolios. My focus was mainly on making education more flexible. I became so committed to it that I proposed an initiative to make it possible to take courses outside of my own study programme. This turned out to be very complex from an organizational point of view, but I managed to get Fontys to look for an intern who will do research into this. Moreover, Fontys had invited me last week to share my vision on Blended Learning (a mix of physical and digital education) in a live broadcast with Fontys directors and professionals in education.

How did you experience working with international students?

I noticed that they wanted to get started quickly. They already started realizing the application, while I first wanted to think about the assignment and our plan of approach. That sometimes caused some friction. But you learn a lot from each other. It can yield interesting cross-pollinations. You can inspire each other that way.

"Collaborating with international students can create interesting cross-pollinations. You can inspire each other that way."

Bart Verhagen

What do you want to do next?

I am a generalist. I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up, because I find everything interesting. The subjects most interesting to me have to do with ICT, research, management or politics, internationalization and they have a lot of variety. I also hope to inspire others, so maybe education is something for me. Although I think I need to gain work experience first for the time being. In any case, I am completely at home with ICT. I've always had my sights set on the data part. I find the role of data architect extremely interesting. That’s also the theme of my graduation research. My feeling tells me that I'm going to do a lot of cool things with it. As long as I don't know exactly what I want, I will continue to follow my gut feeling. By trying things I know better and better what I like and dislike and in what direction I want to go further.

What do you think about studying and living in Brainport Eindhoven?

I notice that education seeks a lot of contact with business. Fontys invests a lot in it. In this way, you are confronted with real projects from the professional field during your study. In this inspiring environment, the knowledge and resources are available that stimulate innovation. In addition, you will also have the opportunity to get acquainted with different companies from the university through various activities.

What else would you like to tell (future) students in Brainport Eindhoven?

Many companies are open to collaborations, which means that there are many opportunities here. Take advantage of the opportunities that arise from this. You now have the time to fully focus on your studies. Studying here means that you will be taught by professionals from the field. Sharpen your ears and keep your eyes open. Try to learn as much as possible from them and your fellow students. Now is the time to work on your future, because later you should be able to do it yourself. Above all, don't be discouraged by the thought that studying hard won't help you have fun. Because of all my activities I have experienced many unique moments and met special people.