Showpieces belonging to the associations

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Showpieces belonging to the associations

Almost every association has a showpiece, something that's come to typify them. For example, the boat truck belonging to Thêta, which the association designed itself. But it could equally be a foosball table that brings students together, as happens at Intermate. In some cases the history goes back so far that not even the members themselves know where the thing comes from. Five very different associations talk proudly about their showpiece and explain why theirs is so special.

Chaos when Nero is 'off'

Student association Demos has not one, but two showpieces: ‘the’ juice carton and Nero. The strange story of the juice carton started with a choosy president and has developed into a tradition. A proud lion, Nero watches over the bar whenever Demos is holding a drinks party. When Nero's light shines, everyone must keep to 'his' rules.

Nero, named for the Roman emperor, polices the association's mores at the bar, in other words the rules of conduct. Mirko Bolsenbroek, president of E.S.V Demos, knows all about the lion and his history: “Nero lives high up above the bar, behind glass, and when his light is on everyone has to obey the unwritten rules of the bar. Two examples, you aren't supposed to be making out with someone at the bar, nor should you stand with your back to the bar staff.”

 “Once Nero's light is switched off, no one is bound by those rules. Sometimes people go to great lengths to restore Nero's rules, now and then we've had tea lights on the bar,” says Bolsenbroek. Behind the bar there's an on/off switch for Nero's light.

Nero's history

The story starts with his predecessor ‘Kuusje’, a troll the association received as a gift in 1979 from the Basement, Floor and Ceilings committee. “When we moved from the Bunker to the Keizer in 2016 we had a new figure made, and that's Nero. There used to be a brewery in this neighborhood called Brouwerij de Rode Leeuw, and when we moved we liked the idea of putting a red lion (rode leeuw) here to police the association's mores.”

The juice carton

Exactly when the story behind the juice carton started, no one at Demos is entirely sure. After digging in the archives, Bolsenbroek knows only that it was by 2010 it was already a tradition. “It all started with a president who didn't like the brand of orange juice we had at Demos. So he bought a brand he liked, only that was not okay. We have a catering license and the association stands for equality so you can't just bring in your own drinks. But he did and he hid the carton outside on a window ledge.”

“The president, whose name no one knows, took his juice very seriously. When the association was still at the old location, the Bunker, members would climb up to the first floor to remove the carton. Then they thought, every time someone manages to do that, the president has to drink the official juice for the next three weeks.”

Since then it has become a tradition that everyone at Demos knows about. But it has become more difficult to snaffle the juice carton. “In the Bunker we didn't have a lot of places where you could stand the carton, but now we do. A successful snaffle occurs much less often these days because the carton is harder to find. As chance would have it, the carton was snaffled not long ago. So now I have to drink juice, every Wednesday evening, for three weeks.”

“Do we need it? No. Is it fun? Yes!”

It's an impressive sight, the boat truck belonging to student rowing association Thêta. Thanks to a system of the students' own design and the dedication of the members, the truck stands at the heart of the association. Fired with enthusiasm, Edgar de Lange, technical director of Thêta, and Eef Meijerink, driver, talk about ‘their’ boat truck.

De Lange: “What's special about our design is that we work with trucks, which are quite a bit heavier and more expensive than towing racks, but this means the boat is less stiff than the rack it is laying on. As a result, less pressure is exerted on the rowing boat by, for example, road bumps, and there is less likelihood of the boat being damaged during transit. In short, we have developed a heavy-duty method of transport that enables us to carry the boats, which are horribly expensive, in a safe way.”


New members are immediately struck by the boat truck. De Lange and Meijerink can both recall how it was for them, as first-years. De Lange: “When you enter Thêta, you are overwhelmed by the student culture and the rowing culture, both of which are new to almost everyone. What's more, you are impressed by the rowing boats and how seriously people here take the sport. The more involved you get, the better you understand how important the boat truck is to the association. In all we have about fifteen drivers and last year for the association I drove 250 hours."  

The boat truck was conceived, designed and built largely by a group of Mechanical Engineering students, all members of the BWC. Very little of the construction was outsourced to an external company. De Lange: “Every weekend the rowing boats have to be taken to a different location. Thêta has been designing its own boat trucks since 1966. If you were to put only the smaller boats on the current truck, you could certainly fit on fifty. At the moment, it is carrying eighteen.” A change in the law and the need for a safer method of transport meant Thêta had to get a new boat truck.  

 “If you were to ask whether a self-designed boat truck is really necessary, the answer would be 'No'. Is it fun? Yes, especially for technical students like us. Almost all the other rowing associations sought a compromise between cost, weight and practical requirements. Thêta went in search of quality, we want the crème de la crème in boat transport. We knew it would be expensive; a new boat truck costs close to 200,000 euros.” The money for the new boat truck was acquired in part by crowdfunding. They had also been saving up for fifteen years.

De Lange: “Members get their driver's license at a driving school, but after that former drivers accompany them a couple of times. The driving school's truck is very different from ours. Driving ours you have to be a lot more careful, the rowing boats are incredibly fragile. If you drive into a lamp post, the lamp post will be left standing but the rowing boat costing between 30,000 and 50,000 euros will be damaged. To pay back the cost of your driver's license you have to drive a total distance of fourteen thousand kilometers, so it's pretty clear that all our drivers are very dedicated.”


Future plans for a new boat haven't yet been made; the road to the present truck was long. Meijerink: “We've had the boat truck for less than a year now. The process of getting this new boat truck went on for a long time. We are all set for the coming ten to fifteen years. In terms of boot transport we're sorted for now.”  

De Lange: “For the association, having the new truck has brought a sense of calm, it keeps the costs down and it puts us back in the driving seat, as it were. At other associations you see a lot of costs for transport, having to pay external companies. That's not something we have to worry about.”

“A vision for ten years' time might well be a collaboration with TU/e. An electric car or a hydrogen-powered one, a technical marvel. These are all nice plans, but nothing's concrete.”

“It all revolves around this table”

The foosball table is the place to get to know people at Intermate, according to board members Rob Janssen (treasurer) and Timo van Helvoort (commissioner for external relations). The two guys can often be found at the foosball table and both describe themselves as very competitive. The foosball table triggers a lot of emotions at the association; around the table members lay bets and play an annual tournament.

Walking into the Intermate board room, there's a good chance you'll find Janssen and Van Helvoort, both students of Psychology & Technology, playing with or against each other. They play foosball every day on the showpiece belonging to Intermate.

How old the table is, nobody knows at Intermate. Those around at the time the table was bought have long since left TU/e. It still has slots where Dutch Guilders can be inserted, so they know the table was bought before 2001. Once every quartile the table is cleaned and repaired by Intermate member Paolo Franken. Between times, the table's intensive use might mean a screw or player has to be replaced.

The showpiece

Van Helvoort: “We hold a tournament every year and it makes no difference whether you are good or bad, everyone joins in. Last year, we had 42 people taking part, the maximum we can manage is 64. If you are good, you could spend a half hour on a single game.”

The two guys are pretty competitive. If they aren't playing on the same side, they play against each other and the opportunity to lay a bet can't be passed up. Timo: “We keep track of the score throughout the year, the person who loses has to eat a whole red chili pepper. Right now I'm in the lead by quite a lot.”   Janssen: “And it was my idea. We both like chili, but I don't know if I like it quite that much.”

The table's value

Van Helvoort: “It all revolves around this table, we play our best game on our own foosball table. At Gewis, for example, they play very differently. Over there, you can trap the ball under a player.”

Van Helvoort: “The table helps you get to know people. You play a quick game if you've got time on your hands; there are always people keen to challenge you. I started during my Intro Week. I was really bad at it back then, and that's something I can't stand. So I started playing more and more often. Now I'm better at it.”

Janssen: “It breaks the ice when you're trying to meet other people.” Van Helvoort: “For us, it means we get more first-years actively involved. They can play a game here and then they've made contact. That might be the case for only three people, but still that's another three people who become active members of Intermate.”

The table can be too great a distraction, but the guys say that's within a person's own control. Janssen: “It's not affecting my studies fortunately, but if I have to do my bookkeeping, I always hang around the foosball table a little bit longer.”

Van Helvoort: “In the room where the table is you can't study. If you go and sit there, really, you've already given up any idea of studying.” Janssen: “The rule is that if you lose 10-0 you have to crawl under the table and out the other side. I have to admit it's easier to win by that much if the other player doesn't have any experience and you've been playing it for nearly three years. At 10-1 they have to buy a drink for you, that's one of the fun things. And why not? In the first year we had to crawl under the table ourselves often enough.”


With their performances in the last tournament, a year ago, Janssen and Van Helvoort are clearly dissatisfied. Janssen: “We weren't yet playing as a team. Timo came in the top eight and I made the top sixteen. We've played against each other every day since we've been on the board. That's since May. The score is 33-3 to Timo. That's not so great.”

A tournament between all the associations is something the guys like the idea of, but that may be something for the future. They are taking note of who's good at the other associations. They keep track of who they have beaten and lost to. Now that the hectic exam period and Intermate's foreign trip are over, the next foosball tournament is being planned.

Simon Stevin's sand yachts hit high speeds

Speeds of up to eighty kilometers an hour can be reached by the self-built sand yachts owned by Simon Stevin, the study association at Mechanical Engineering. Derek van de Wiel has been sand yacht commissioner for the past year and he tells us about the yachts, which sometimes don't make it back from the beach in one piece.

“We build the sand yachts ourselves, that's what makes it so much fun”, Van de Wiel explains enthusiastically. “What's also special is that they are made mainly of stainless steel and if anything gets broken we can carry out our own repairs. Typically sand yachts are more streamlined and made of polyester, which is much more expensive.”

Building a sand yacht

The Simon Stevin members buy their materials from a supplier; the necessary funds are included in the association's budget. The sails are the most expensive element, costing about 800 euros each. The logo printed on them is usually Simon Stevin's own, but may occasionally be that of a sponsoring company. For the wheels, the association uses old car tires.

At the moment they have eight working sand yachts, three of which are ‘Pipers’. "Those are the more standard sand yachts, which are easier to make. One of the other five yachts is D’N Duvel, a creation some fifty years old that was donated to the association in 2010. Sietske and the Dolfijn are both made of fiber glass. Then there's the Bobbie and last but not least we have the Buizerd, otherwise known as the Doodskist (due to the coffin-like form of the cockpit). Fifteen committee members work on the sand yachts once a fortnight, repairing parts and making improvements.”

Van de Wiel: “It means we always have something to do and it is a fun, original activity that brings people together. When we have an activity, we almost always have the maximum number signing up. During the year we make a number of trips, five weekends and one midweek. We can take nine to twelve people.”


The speed reached depends on the wind speed, the size of the sail, but also on the amount of rust and sand that gets into the workings. “At wind force six they all go faster than 62 kilometers an hour, and some even reach 80. In those conditions only experienced sand yachters go out. Professional sand yachts race at well over a 100 kilometers an hour, the worldwide speed record stands at 200 km/hr.”

“A student at the Design Academy made the cockpit of our fastest yacht, Sietske. The disadvantage of this is that the yacht is so big and blunt that it doesn't ride at all if there's not much wind. Generally speaking our yachts all ride at about the same speed. By the time you're allowed to ride in the fastest yacht, you have to been in all the other yachts, that's how you build experience.”  

As to which season is the best for sand yachting, opinion is divided, the sand yacht commissioner knows. “In summer of course you have the great weather, but there's less wind. My personal favorite, I think, is the fall, because the temperature is still pleasant and the wind is good. Actually, I think the best times are whenever the season is turning.”

Future of the sand yachts   

“We don't yet have any big plans for the future. If one gets broken, we build another one. That's all part of the fun. An additional factor is that pretty soon Gemini is going to be renovated and so we are probably going to lose a considerable amount of space. At the moment we have a lot of storage space there.”

Thunder and lightning at Thor

A thunderstorm fills the bar at Thor. The beadle's mace doesn't just look good, it has also been known to generate bolts of lightning. Thor's mace is in no way a traditional beadle's mace. Once a year it is taken out of the locked display cabinet, during the drinks party held to celebrate the new board's appointment.

Not just anyone can fiddle with the mace, but a member who comes up with a good idea can make a change to its switch. Tom van Nunen, former board member: “We bring the mace out of the display cabinet once a year and afterwards it goes back under lock and key. But if someone from Thor suggests a nice addition or change to the mace, they are free to make it happen. After all, that's how we developed our beadle's mace."

According to Thor secretary Renate Debets, the beadle's mace is perfect for the association: “It's used to attract everyone's attention. Associations get everyone's attention with a metal plate that they stamp on using the beadle's mace. We do the same thing, but we use electronics to attract attention. We are studying electrical engineering, this is electrical engineering, so it's our thing. ” As soon as someone taps the floor with the mace, lightning bolts appear on the ceiling. With the sound of thunder it makes, it's as if you are in the middle of a storm, only in the bar at Thor.

The present beadle's mace has an interesting past history, which is recorded in the yearbooks. Not that Van Nunen needs a yearbook to tell the story of the mace: “The first beadle's mace was taken as booty (gebrast) in a raid by another association, in 2000. That was a metal staff. We got it back sunk in concrete. Then in 2004 Joris Seis, a former and honorary member, made a new one, this one, which is much more splendid. Into the new beadle's mace Seis worked a mercury switch and the flash of a disposable camera. Back then that's how he created the lightning.”

In need of replacement

The mace's wooden frame, as Seis made it, has always stayed the same. Members replace or improve the switch. Van Nunen: “In about 2011 I replaced the mace's switch. The mace had been bashed against something and the mercury switch was broken. The mercury got all over the mechanism. At the time we came up with a quick fix. It worked but no more than that. Whenever we make a new switch we also look at what kind of LEDs we can use to create the best flash. At the moment we're using 36-Volt LEDs.”

Sebastiaan Goossens, former board member: “The motivation behind it is very straightforward: it is simply cool. When other associations see it, they think, ‘We want one too!’” The mace also has a party mode. There are other lights on the mace that are geared to the lamps on the ceiling. One sideways wave of the mace and the room is bathed in disco lighting.

Van Nunen: “This past year the association from Twente paid us a visit, Scintilla, and they wanted to know where we had bought the mace. They thought we had bought it on AliExpress. It costs a fair bit to make everything, about 200 euros, but Thor is happy to spend that much.”

Passing on the baton

Van Nunen is studying for his doctorate and Goossens is doing his Master's, so they won't be able to look after the beadle's mace forever. It is not yet clear who will take on this task after them, but finding a replacement isn't something they feel is strictly necessary. Debets: “We have our own page of nice-to-know information, ThorWiki. That's where there's a written record of all the changes that have been made to the mace.” ThorWiki is a sort of Wikipedia for the association.

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