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VU Dream Teams

At Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, we not only want our students to become ‘something’, such as an economist, doctor or biologist. We also want our students to become ‘someone’. We think it is important that they develop theirselves both academically and personally, cultivating the broader qualities within them. This includes improving communication skills, fostering an enterprising spirit or learning to develop activities that have social impact.

That is why VU encourages students to think and work beyond borders and in doing so contribute to our world in a meaningful way. This ideology is embodied in VU’s 'A Broader Mind for Students'-programma. The VU Dream Teams fall under this umbrella.

What do these Dream Teams do?

From the 2021-2022 academic year, five VU Dream Teams will be active, each consisting of 8 to 14 Bachelor’s and Master’s students from various programmes. These teams will independently work on an assignment that is formulated by VU academics and deliver a concrete and tangible end result. The skills they develop by participating in these innovative teams contribute greatly to their personal and professional growth. The teams will write a business plan, set up a website, brainstorm with people from various disciplines, and translate ideas and expertise into prototypes. The teams will also engage in interesting collaborations with companies and institutions. They will learn to network, maintain relationships with stakeholders and pitch creative ideas in a professional context. Each team is supported by a VU ambassador.

In the section 'Dream Teams and ambassadors 2021-2022', you can read about the specific challenge each team will take on.

VU profile themes 
Four out of five Dream Teams are linked to one of the four VU profile themes: Human Health & Life Sciences, Governance for Society, Science for Sustainability and Connected World. These themes reflect the essence of our approach to carrying out the VU mission as it relates to education, research and knowledge transfer (impact). The fifth team (PULSE Racing) is linked to the faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences and has been in operation for several years now. 

Previous Dream Teams 
In previous years, several VU students have achieved great successes by participating in Dream Teams such as PULSE-racing, and Human Power Team and Wasub as well.

Birgit Kaman MA Movement Sciences and former Dream Team member

Birgit Kaman MA Movement Sciences and former Dream Team member

“Working within the PULSE Dream Team is a very valuable experience. The translation of theory into practice is educational and also a lot of fun. I’m using my scientific knowledge in a different way, but I’m also learning how to manage and organize a company. PULSE has given me insight into what is possible with my education. I have also learned how important working in a multidisciplinary team can be.”

Extra information on Dream Teams

  • Dream Teams and ambassadors 2021-2022

    Here, you can read about the five VU Dream Teams that will be in operation from the 2021-2022 academic year, the assignment each team will work on and which VU ambassadors will assist the teams:
    Dream Team 1: VU ProFit! for customized lifestyle advice
    This team is linked to the profile theme Human Health and Life Sciences.
    Not everyone lives a healthy lifestyle and COVID-19 has deteriorated healthy lifestyles even more. Dream Team VU ProFIT! develops a novel approach to improve the lifestyle of VU staff and students. The team employs innovative measurements and methods with regard to nutrition, movement, sleep and psychosocial factors (for instance stress and motivation) and translates the collected information into made-to-measure recommendations using optimal communication techniques and practical applications. Measurements are performed in the labs of the departments of Human Movement Sciences, Health Sciences and Psychology to test the new approach and to monitor and quantify the lifestyle improvement of VU staff and students. 

    The VU ambassadors of this Dream Team are prof. dr. Hein Daanen and dr. Hanneke Wijnhoven.

    Prof. dr. Hein Daanen
    Hein is human movement scientist and professor in Exercise Physiology of the Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences. His research focuses on human adaptations to heat and cold. The last five years he was involved in the management of three Dream Teams of TU Delft and VU: Human Power Team (fastest cyclist of the world), Wasub (fastest human powered device under water) and Pulse-Racing (fastest cyclist using muscle electrostimulation in spinal cord injured athletes).

    Dr. Hanneke Wijnhoven
    Hanneke is a health scientist, epidemiologist and associate professor at the Department of Health Sciences. Her research focuses on the impact of a healthy lifestyle (particularly nutrition, healthy weight, and physical activity) and on healthy ageing. She also studies the role of diversity, such as the differences between men and women. Her ambition is to use her research to contribute to improving people's well-being. She enjoys working with others who pursue the same goal. Together with the motivated and talented students of Dream Team VU ProFit! and ambassador Hein Daanen, she likes to take on the challenge of improving the lifestyle of VU staff and students.

    Dream Team 2: Newcomer Entrepreneurship
    This team is linked to the profile theme Governance for Society.

    This Dream Team explores the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Netherlands to see where new ideas can contribute the most and co-creates solutions with newcomer entrepreneurs with a refugee background. The team will learn about social entrepreneurship, intercultural work, and the process of ideation and implementation to contribute to interdisciplinary societal challenges. The entrepreneurial ecosystem presents unique challenges for newcomer entrepreneurs, such as difficulties accessing finance and legal expertise, discrimination and exclusionary practices. This may inhibit the development of startups by newcomers and affect the psychological well-being of people from refugee communities in general. This Dream Team will work on developing innovative ideas to address this complex social problem by collaborating with a leading incubator in the field and with newcomer entrepreneurs who aim to address these challenges. 

    The VU ambassador of this Dream Team is Youssra Lotfi, MSc Political Science/Public Administration.

    • MSc. Youssra Lotfi
      Youssra graduated from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in 2016 as a political scientist and public administration expert. Since then she has been active in the public sector as a professional and volunteer. In both roles she focuses mainly on groups in vulnerable circumstances, on combating inequality of opportunities as well as inclusion issues. Promoting participation among young people in the Netherlands to contribute to social impact is a key motivator to her.

    Dream Team 3: Empathic robot / The Iron Man
    This team is linked to the profile theme Connected World.

    In a world in which robots and people live together, robots need to be able to ‘read’ people. This reading consists of:

    • recognising emotions through facial expressions, gestures, voice and content 
    • understanding and explaining emotions in a given situation 
    • showing empathy and understanding 

    This team is charged with teaching a robot these communicative aspects for various people with different backgrounds, cultures and social groups. In this way, the empathic robot can become everyone’s friend.

    The VU ambassador of this Dream Team is prof. dr. Piek Vossen

    • Prof. dr. Piek Vossen 
      Piek is a linguist and professor of Computational Lexicology. "I’m interested in how language works, how empathy works and how bonding occurs. Interpersonal communication between people is highly personal and extremely fascinating. That is the ultimate challenge for a robot and therefore also for this Dream Team.”

    Dream Team 4: Planet-friendly food for a sustainable future
    This team is linked to the profile theme Science for Sustainability.

    The Dream Team Planet-friendly food has the task of developing a toolkit tailored to the wishes and needs of young people from all walks of life. This toolkit will make young people more aware of the impact of their eating behaviour on the environment and social climate and enable them to make choices that will make the world a little bit better, one step at a time. The team will collect data from various groups of young people to identify their wishes and needs. Based on this data, the team will develop and test the tools and materials for the toolkit. The next step will be to determine whether the toolkit actually leads to more planet-friendly eating among the selected target groups. 

    The VU ambassadors of this Dream Team are dr. ir. Margreet Olthof and prof. dr. ir. Ingeborg Brouwer

    • Dr. ir. Margreet Olthof
      Margreet works at the Department of Health Sciences, is a nutritional scientist and is programme director of the Master's programme in Health Sciences. She conducts research in the field of nutrition and human health, including nutrition in specific phases of life (young & old), the health effects of what we eat and drink (such as coffee), and sustainable, healthy food for people and the planet. She is happy to work with the Dream Team and take up the challenge of making concrete and creative plans that will help people in the Netherlands make healthier and more sustainable food choices, as part of the big mission ‘planet-friendly food’. 
    • Prof. dr. ir. Ingeborg Brouwer
      Ingeborg is a nutrition scientist and professor of Nutrition for Healthy Living at the Department of Health Sciences. Her research focuses on the effects of food on health and sustainability. She looks at how different foods and diets impact health and well-being outcomes and how much pressure they put on the environment, for example, when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions or land use. Ingeborg is looking forward to working with the students to make the Netherlands a little better.

    Dream Team 5: PULSE Racing
    This team is linked to the Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences

    Dreamteam PULSE Racing strives to improve the mobility and vitality of people with spinal cord injuries (the athletes) by way of Functional ElectroStimulation (FES). Through FES, the muscles contract because pulses are sent through the skin to the nerves. In this way, PULSE Racing allows athletes with spinal cord injuries to cycle again! PULSE Racing participates in (inter)national competitions and has even won gold at the Cybathlon, a competition in which talented parathletes, aided by advanced robotics, compete for gold. PULSE Racing combines sports, rehabilitation and technology, and aims to raise awareness of FES so even more athletes can experience the possibilities and benefits of FES.

    The VU ambassador of this Dream Team is prof. dr. Thomas Janssen.

    • Prof. dr Thomas Janssen
      Thomas is professor of Rehabilitation Research at the Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences at VU, where he teaches courses in exercise physiology and rehabilitation. He also leads research in the field of spinal cord injury and adapted sports in rehabilitation centre Reade and is academically (co-)responsible for the Centre for Adapted Sports Amsterdam, part of the Amsterdam Institute of Sport Science. Cycling as fast as possible with the aid of electrostimulation, the goal of this Dream Team, is not only interesting on a academic level, the knowledge gained can also mean a lot for the health and fitness of people with spinal cord injury.
  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

    • What is a Dream Team?
      A Dream Team consists of a group of highly-motivated Bachelor’s and Master’s students (and possibly PhD candidates) who, together with university staff, take on a concrete social challenge in which the learning experience of the team members takes centre stage.
    • What is the duration of a Dream Team?
      As a general rule, a Dream Team is active for one academic year. 
    • What is the primary language of the team?
      Dutch or English, as decided on within the group.
    • Where do the Dream Teams carry out their activities (location)?
      The Dream Teams have five rooms at their disposal in the W&N building. 
    • What happens to the Dream Team projects after one academic year? 
      At the end of the academic year, a new team will take over the project and move it forward, ensuring that additional progress is made.
  • Contact

    Dream Team related questions
    Peter Beek

    Omayra Mac Donald