Their Masters graduation thesis mentor asked them if they were interested to participate in the Urban Greenhouse Challenge. And then, one day in September 2021, Eren Gözde Anil and Sarah Hoogenboom met with seven other students who responded to the call from the TU Delft AgTech Institute.
Each had different educational backgrounds and nationalities, but all came from TU Delft. Together they formed LettUs Design, the team that won the third and last edition of the Urban Greenhouse Challenge. They were not complete all at once; a few more people were recruited throughout the process, when they realized what kind of talents and skills were needed for the challenge. There were engineering, architecture and industrial engineering students among them. First they had to find out: who could do what?
Through the progression of the competition, the team was then divided into five different groups: finance, architecture, agriculture, environmental and social. Each of the members was in two or three of these different groups, to create cross-interdisciplinary understanding.
At first they received coaching from TU Delft teachers and the AgTech Institute. Then diversified external output as the UGC organization introduced Challenge’s coaches. Eren: “During UGC coaching sessions and online events we also got to know participants from the other teams, which was really nice. Then, after the first delivery, when we realized the quality of work that we were able to create together as a team, we really got motivated.”
The whole competition had a steep learning curve for all of them in different ways. Sarah: “The interdisciplinary aspect was maybe the most difficult – to communicate to your team members, who don't know certain specific terminology or concepts, about certain aspects of the project. As architects, we would propose a design concept such as modularity or gamification and then learn how to communicate with the engineers on the team to be on the same page”
Four of the team members – among whom Eren and Sarah – graduated with their Masters from TU Delft this academic year, while working on this competition. Some of them had completed their final defence right before the finale. During the competition, many of their thesis deadlines were one week before the Milestone 1 and 2 deadlines. So it was definitely really stressful for them, working on the UGC on top of their studies.
Friendships for life
What they will do next, they don’t know yet. First they'll have a nice vacation. Then they will undoubtedly meet again, because after nine months of working together, friendships for life have been forged. After a few robust conversations, they have divided the prize money among themselves, so that everyone can spend it as they see fit.
Sarah: “Reactions after winning the Challenge have been really overwhelming, also on LinkedIn. I really look forward to talking to the network that has been provided by the UGC as well as from TU Delft studies. I think there's quite a bit of opportunity.”
Ultimate tip for future ‘challengers’: time management!
Sarah and Eren certainly have tips for students who will take part in future challenges. Eren: “First of all, time management! Don’t spend too much time on parts that are not really relevant. We produced so many ideas, including parts we couldn’t include in our submissions. Make a good management plan. Think about what exactly you’re going to create and produce, what needs to be in the report, what can be exhibited. Leave details that are not important out at this moment.”
Sarah: “Another success tips is having weekly meetings, communicating well and be sure everyone is on the same page at all times. And have the weekly meetings being concise, no longer than one hour. And then also make sure that discussion points have conclusions, instead of leaving loose ends. Do some serious interdisciplinary decision-making to be able to proceed forward.”