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Funded PhD position; in Design of a feedback support system for the training of construction equipment operators; at Faculty of Engineering Technology; University of Twente; in Netherlands


This design project is formed as a result of a collaboration between the ZoARG program and SOMA college. ZoARG program initially stimulated careful approaches for fiber to the home installation and later evolved into a larger programme focussed on the Reduction of Excavation Damages (Dutch acronym: ZoARG). This program intends to boost innovation in methods, techniques, and processes.SOMA college is the leading training school for the operator of heavy equipment in the Netherlands and it is committed to safeguarding excellent vocational training and preparing the next generations of the heavy equipment operators. The college is dedicated to improving the education quality and leveraging the-state-of-the-art technology to enhance learning.

Job description

Heavy equipment accounts for a large portion of construction site accidents. The construction schools, therefore, use actual equipment and simulators to train equipment operators to work safely. Existing training with the actual excavation equipment helps trainees to get sensitized to delicate details about machine operations. The feedback process during on-machine training seems, however, suboptimal. This is mainly because feedbacks are currently provided by means of visual inspection performed by the instructors, and mainly communicated verbally. This practice has several problems:

Attention focus and span: During the stretch of the on-site lessons the instructors have to divide their attention – for observing, analysing, memorizing and feedback – across several students at the same time.

Continuity: Direct immediate feedback would break the training sequence of the student;

Transience: Post-hoc feedback creates the problem of remembering and reconstructing of the sequence for both student and instructor;

Perspective and factuality: Students experience the lessons as actor/operator from an insiders perspective. The instructors observe from an outsiders perspective. This can create student-instructor misunderstanding regarding the movements as actually preformed;

Proximity: Instructors need to always maintain a safety distance due to the safety risks involved in moving near the equipment. Furthermore, the large sizes of the construction equipment may block trainers views;

In brief, instructors may experience difficulty in comprehensively observing, memorizing and analyzing trainees’ moves. Consequently, many important operational details/manoeuvres can be overlooked by the instructors when training outside. Further, since the actual on-equipment training is relatively expensive, it is, therefore, desired to develop more efficient solutions that get more out of the trainees’ interactions with the equipment.

Accordingly, it is very favorable to devise a new solution that uses data collected from various sensors on the equipment to track and visualize the performances of trainees and, thus, support the instructors in providing feedbacks to the trainees. Advanced visualization technologies allow for rapid reconstruction of scenes in the virtual environment, which can be used to support the instructors in better pinpointing the major and minor mistakes of the trainees. Another advantage is that the training performances can be archived virtually to support detailed progress monitoring and personalized training.

The aim of this design project is to:

“Develop a feedback support system that can assist the instructors of the heavy construction equipment to provide a more comprehensive guidance to the trainees”

The main outcomes are:

  • An easy-to-mount toolkit for tracking the motions of the heavy equipment on the training site;
  • A visualization-based feedback system that uses the sensory data to reconstruct a rendition of the trainees’ performance;
  • An algorithm to identify and demarcate the “points of attention” in the performance of the trainee for the instructors;

A guideline for the incorporation of the developed system in the exisitng educational process.

Your profile

We are searching for the best MSc graduated candidates with a demonstrable affinity with design, construction management, and multidisciplinary assignments. Besides, you must have the ambition and talent to accelerate in finding solutions / creating designs for complex civil technological issues with a multidisciplinary character. Prior knowledge in ICT and software development, computer graphics, and real-time location systems will be helpful to successfully complete the project, but can also be part of the educational program. An interview will be part of the selection procedure. The preference is given to candidates with a good working command of Dutch.

Information and application
If you have any further questions about this vacancy of the PDEng programme in Civil Engineering, please contact Dr. Vahdatikhaki at or telephone: +31 53 489 2242. You can find the general information about PDEng programmes at or

Please upload your application, with a curriculum vitae, a list with grades of courses attended, references and, if applicable, a list of publications through the button below. You can upload a maximum of 3 documents. Closing date of this vacancy is October 1st. 2017.

Our offer

We offer a full-time contract for 24 months with a salary of € 1828,- per month. During these two years, you follow a tailor made post-master design programme with a combination of education (50%) and working on a design project (50%). While employed formally by UT, the successful candidate will need to split his/her time between SOMA college and UT. Also, the University of Twente provides excellent facilities for professional and personal development, a holiday allowance and an end-of-year bonus. On successfully completing the programme, you will receive a certified and recognized degree. You will be entitled to use the academic degree Professional Doctorate in Engineering (PDEng) and will be registered as a Technological Designer in the Dutch register kept by the Royal Institution of Engineers in the Netherlands (KIVINIRIA).

The organization

The University of Twente. We stand for life sciences and technology. High tech and human touch. Education and research that matter. New technology which leads change, innovation and progress in society. The University of Twente is the only campus university of the Netherlands; divided over five faculties we provide more than fifty educational programmes. We have a strong focus on personal development and talented researchers are given scope for carrying out groundbreaking research.

We are an equal opportunity employer and value diversity at our company. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status or disability status. Because of our diversity values we do particularly support women to apply.

 The Faculty of Engineering Technology (ET) is one of the five faculties of the University of Twente. ET combines Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering and Industrial Design Engineering. Our faculty has approximately 1800 bachelor and master students, 400 employees and 150 PhD candidates. The departments of the faculty cooperatively conduct the educational programmes and participate in interdisciplinary research projects, programmes and the research institutes: MIRA, CTIT, SBE and IGS.

Deadline: October 1, 2017.

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