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Generations of students have studied at TU Delft. We spoke to grandparents and grandchildren about then and now. This time we talk to Paul Scharp and Cilia Claij.
According to Cilia Claij and her grandfather, the basis of the mechanical engineering program has not changed much. (Photo: Sam Rentmeester)

Generations of students have studied at TU Delft. Delta spoke to grandparents and grandchildren about then and now. This time we talk to Paul Scharp and Cilia Claij.

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In 1964, Paul Scharp was not just any ordinary mechanical engineering student. He was an army officer that wanted to study. Stationed in The Hague, it was an obvious choice to study at TU Delft. The Ministry of Defence approved his application as long as he graduated within the set time. So he did not have much time for student associations, though he did become a member of the Leeghwater study association.

The same choice of modules
His granddaughter Cilia Claij (21) is following in his footsteps. She chose mechanical engineering “because of robotics and computer sciences”. The basics of mechanical engineering has not changed, she states after having a look at her grandfather’s list of modules. “That said, nuts and bolts were very important in my day,” says grandpa Paul. This is not the case anymore. Cilia says that these days students learn in lectures that they will design things and must know if their designs are feasible. “During the projects you do work with nuts and bolts, but the underlying idea of the mechanical engineering course has changed,” says Cilia.

Eighty-one year old Scharp counts 10 modules in his first year and nine in his second and third years. Cilia had 12 modules in her first year, and thereafter 14 spread across her blocks. “We took 10 modules throughout the year,” says her grandfather. “You had mid-terms once in a while.” Cilia wonders if that would be better. “If you have a module in one block, you mostly learn what you need to pass the exam,” she says. “After the exam you forget quite a lot of material.”

Talking about exams, grandpa Paul is now brave enough to admit that he “married in December 1964 and my first exam was in January 1965. I had never done an exam before and did not know what to expect, so I brought my textbooks with me on my honeymoon.” His wife was less than thrilled.

‘It was exceptional to see a lady in the lecture hall’

There were few female students in Scharp’s time. “It was exceptional to see a lady in the lecture hall,” he says. And this was in a room of about 250 first year students. “The Professor of Metalwork liked to do things in style. Before entering the lecture hall, his assistant checked if there were any women. If so, the Professor would say ‘good day ladies and gentlemen’ instead of ‘good day gentlemen’.” Cilia estimates that these days, of the 700 first year students, about 10% are women.

In the 1960s, Grandpa Paul’s lectures were in amphitheatre halls with a desk and a large chalk board in the middle’. “In my day we used overhead projectors.” While Cilia has her lectures in similar halls, the chalk board has been replaced by a screen. “I only take notes to give more details to the slides, for example if something is drawn. I sometimes also use the recorded lectures in the Collegerama.” Grandpa laughs. “We didn’t have that in my time!”

Asking questions online
Another thing that they did not have then were online fora for students. Cilia’s year has so many students that there is little personal contact between students and teachers, and teachers even ask the students not to email them. “We have an online forum for general modules where you can ask questions,” she says. “You can also read the answers to the FAQs of previous years. It really works well.”

Cilia has set the rule for herself that if she does not understand something during a lecture, and the student next to her also does not understand, she will ask the teacher. “That can be tricky if the lectures are tightly planned, but you can ask during breaks or at the end.” As a 26 year old army officer, Grandpa Paul didn’t hold back if he had questions. As he was a bit older than the other students, they were pleased to let him ask the questions. “Even if I understood the material, if I saw that other students found it difficult, I asked the professor to repeat it.” The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

By: Connie van Uffelen en Marjolein van der Veldt

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