Young Brainport Summer School: International students mix physics and fun in Eindhoven

Parents, if you’ve ever thought, “There needs to be an international student summer school that combines travel, tech and career insights, ” Young Brainport Summer School is way ahead of you.

In its fourth year, Young Brainport Summer School brought 40 students ages 15 to 18 from a total of 17 different countries to Eindhoven for eight days of serious science mixed with serious fun.

The project is funded and organized by Brainport Eindhoven, the region’s economic development effort.

YBSS ran from 10 August to 17 August with the goal of giving top young talents – especially those interested in physics – a “life-changing experience” so they become “motivated ambassadors”; ie, an introduction designed to put Eindhoven front and center when students are pondering university and careers.

(See more details at the end of the post.)

And, of course, since every kid is an influencer, maybe they’ll tell their friends back home.

YBSS included classroom time with professors and professionals, visits to Eindhoven’s futuristic businesses and research centers balanced out with sports and socializing including trips to Enversed VR, a virtual reality gaming center, an escape room and PSV Eindhoven, our Eredivisie football team.

Most of the time, Dispatches covers the global mobility of talent in the context of highly skilled international adults and the European tech innovation centers that need them.

The Netherlands is different. In the Netherlands, the pursuit of talent begins with the world’s smartest high school students, with applicants vetted by teachers including a ”Why I am the perfect candidate for the Young Brainport Summer School” video pitch.

Teachers select their top students, said Mira Dreessen, Brainport project manager, looking at everything from grades to their motivation for wanting to join the summer school.

Dispatches was invited to rendezvous with the students at the High Tech Campus Eindhoven offices of Solliance, a thin film solar energy research partnership between Dutch research center TNO and Belgian R&D center imec.

The result is one of the most advanced solar-energy research centers in the world. The Solliance visit – including tours, briefing and challenges – held a room full of teams dazzled by the technology. (Heck, we were dazzled by the technology.)


Solliance’s Marc Koetse, a systems engineer/architect, gave the group a detailed explanation of how solar energy works, complete with formulas and technical details smart kids get.

Then Koetse presented a deep-dive into perovskites, the mineral compound used in the most advanced thin-film flexible solar panels and ultra-thin solar materials – some only 5 microns thick.

That technology coming out of Eindhoven makes it possible to now to incorporate flexible solar everywhere “in every available space” including roofing tiles and office building windows making individual cities potentially energy self-sufficient, Koetse said.

The students asked insightful questions including about the cost of actually making the materials that go into the latest solar technology (a lot!), the ideal temperature for panel efficiency (25 degrees Celsius, though they are more likely to be in 60-degree environments ) and the payback period for investments in solar (it varies, but typically three-to-four years.)

The main takeaway is that solar will be the main energy source in the future as the technology gets more efficient, cheaper and easier to integrate into everything from vehicles to building materials … wherever energy is needed.

For Solliance, hosting the group was an opportunity to show the future talents technology far advanced beyond conventional solar panels. But Solliance wasn’t only scouting future talent … they hosted YBSS because the program benefits the city as a whole, said Niels van Loon, who works for Solliance partner TNO in marketing and communications.

It worked.


One of the most enthusiastic summer schoolers was Srihsti Nautiyal, 17, from Delhi, who described her fellow students as “science people.” With academic excellence – and English – in common, the group jelled, unconcerned with political or national differences, and focused on the technology, Srihsti noted.

Her impression of Eindhoven? “The most high-tech place in the world,” a place creating the future of technology.

Srihsti and friends expected YBSS to be mostly classroom theory, but were thrilled to get real-world tours of high-tech facilities and hands-on projects.

Igor de Luca, 16, from Brazil, said his favorite part of YBSS was visiting various companies, where they usually received a challenge: “They gave us so many tasks. Some of them were impossible, but even they were fun.”

Liam Diamond, 16, from Toronto, rated one of the best aspects of the eight days as being “immersed in industry and being around companies we could actually work for in real life,” understanding what they do and how they do it.

Liam was one of the few who didn’t foresee coming to the Netherlands for university or career, adding that he’s headed for the University of Waterloo in Ontario.

Sinan Ulaz Öztük, 17 from Istanbul, was already thinking about the process of starting university in Turkey, then qualifying for a visa to transfer to a school in the Netherlands.

If you’re interested in sending your student to Young Brainport Summer School, you’ll want to know the program is under review, with the possibility of shifting toward older students, according to Brainport officials.

But if you’re a planner and want more information about the 2020 Young Brainport Summer School, contact Project Coordinator Mieke Zijlstra at Brainport.

Young Brainport Summer School details:

• Young Brainport Summer School is an initiative of Brainport Development and the Brainport Schools in collaboration with Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario. YBSS is made possible by a financial contribution of the Province of North Brabant, which includes Eindhoven.

• The 40 students represented 17 countries including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United States, Canada, Turkey, Brazil, India and the Netherlands.

• YBSS students visited a number of Eindhoven largest tech businesses including semiconductor giant ASML, the Philips Healthcare campus, AliusEnergy and GE subsidiary Baker Hughes. They also visited Technical University of Eindhoven.

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Co-CEO of Dispatches Europe. A former military reporter, I'm a serial expat who has lived in France, Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.

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