Everyone knows… #5Wolter de Goede
‘From wood to gold: we can make anything’
The UMCG’s instrument lab is hidden all the way in the back of the basement. That’s a shame, because the place is magic. The instrument lab is a work room filled with impressive machinery.
In his neat UMCG button-down shirt and grey cardigan, Wolter de Goede looks a bit out of place among all the machines. He travels by bus for an hour every day to get here, but it’s worth it, he says. ‘I love making unique products that you can’t get anywhere else.’
Wolter started just like everyone else in the workshop: as an apprentice instrument maker. After he finished his schooling, he worked for a different company for a while, making machines for offices; machines that already existed.
But it wasn’t for him, he says. ‘Down here, people come to me with a piece of paper with some sketches on it; I create things out of nothing.’ Fortunately, his former boss at the physics department called him to ask if he wanted a job at the UMCG’s instrument lab. The inventive men at the lab are referred to as ‘Gyro Gearlooses’. ‘From wood to gold: we can make anything.’
He doesn’t understand why there are no women in the workshop. ‘It’s not difficult work at all.’ He thinks people have become less interested in getting a technical job. ‘Parents are probably thinking that they don’t want their kids getting their hands dirty.’
The inventive men at the lab are referred to as ‘Gyro Gearlooses’
Wolter has been working at the instrument lab for forty-six years now. He supervises a group of ten guys. He still works hard himself, but ‘I leave the computer stuff to the guys, because that’s beyond me’. He prefers working with his hands.
‘Using pencil and graph paper like I did when I was young. I work much faster that way.’ He also supervises students, and he loves every day of it. ‘There’s a clear end result: watching the students enjoy finishing a product. I love seeing that.’
It’s not just UG students who come to him. He also regularly gets visits from Hanze, NHL, Alfa-college, and Drenthe College students. The UG students who come to him mainly hail from the biomedical engineering department.
‘They’ll get an assignment and the instruction to just try something’, he says. He’s not always entirely pleased with them though. ‘They’ll come in on a Friday with a design that needs to be finished by Monday’, he says, shaking his head.
Then again, students are the future of instrument making, he says, and they do have some pretty smart ideas. Although not every good idea can actually be realised. ‘Designing something is easy. Making it is harder.’
But that’s where Wolter and his team come in, as well as the 3D printers, his pride and joy. ‘They enable us to quickly print something for students so they don’t go home empty-handed.’
Students sometimes come in on a Friday with a design that needs to be finished by Monday
The first thing he does when a student comes to him is check what the product is for. If it’s patient-related, there are specific requirements it has to meet. He’s still fascinated by the entire process, since it’s how he started out way back when. ‘It’s such an honour to see them come in when they’re young and watch them leave at the end.’
Wolter himself will leave in two-and-a-half years, when he’s retiring. ‘I’m looking forward to it’, he reveals. ‘I’ve been working for so long. It’s time to quit.’
But he has one final goal to achieve before he leaves: to make the instrument lab more visible, get it out of its dark corner in the basement.
Series | There are some UG employees that everyone knows. The cafeteria worker with the nice laugh, the concierge who can always tell you how to get somewhere.