A little over a year ago, Professor Jacco Hoekstra showed some films from Acapellascience in the break in the ‘introduction to aerospace engineering’ subject. This is a YouTube channel where the Canadian ‘edutainer’, Tim Blais, explains science through a capella parodies of popular songs. Successful titles like Molecular Shape of You and Defining Gravity have been watched millions of times.
Hoekstra, who stumbled across the films through his student sons, was so enamoured of the idea that he dropped it during a lecture by saying “wouldn’t it be great if there was a song for this subject?” He called on the students to email him if they wanted to work on a film. “I had no idea what kind of response I would get, but in the end, nine enthusiastic students emailed me.”
The nine of them called themselves the Delft Aeronauts and they quickly decided to record a whole song. “We swung between a classical and modern piece,” says one of the group’s members, Frank Meijering. In the end it was Believer by Imagine Dragons. “It’s modern, but timeless, so will be appealing for a long time,” he says.
After producing a list of fundamental concepts, the group wrote the lyrics. “It was a real challenge,” says Meijering. “Professor Hoekstra’s idea was to teach the basic principles to first year students. Covering as many subjects possible in just three and a half minutes, and to then make them rhyme, was a real puzzle.”
After the writing was done, the group practiced the song and then went into a music studio to record it. “That was the most fun!” says Meijering. “We worked with a real audio engineer who understood everything.”
With the audio done, what then remained was the video. “We wanted to shoot it at the Faculty and in other places on campus that are connected to aerospace engineering in one way or another,” says another group member Reinier Zwikker. “But then came corona.” The group was forced to make a digital version and produced animations for it.
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Just before the start of the new academic year, the Delft Aeronauts presented the final result to an amazed Professor Hoekstra. He showed the video to hundreds of first years who took their seats in the digital lecture hall. Hoekstra says that “they were dumbfounded. Some thought that it was me singing and others responded with terms like ‘this is epic’ and ‘awesome’ in the group chat.”
A good summary
But the question is, after seeing the video, can the students pass their exams? Zwikker laughs. “That may be going a little too fast, but most aspects are included in the video. It’s a good summary.” Hoekstra recommends the first year students to watch the film at the end of the first module again. “Everything will then fall into place.”
For the students who made the video, their ‘passion project’, as they call it, is done. “It was a lot of work, but it would be fun to do it again. There are so many AE subjects, so who knows.”
- The Delft Aeronauts are: Juan Bas, Mischa de Gooijer, Baturay Kombaroglu, Frank Meijering, Michael Rizk, Isabelle Joosten, Rasa Vaznelytė, Tom Weering and Reinier Zwikker. Their video, Taking Off, Introduction to Aerospace Engineering I, has already been viewed on YouTube almost 5,000 times.