Innovative Stolpersteine App, built by Fontys ICT students, received with great enthusiasm

On Wednesday, 26 June at 10:00 am, a group of six Smart Mobile students from Fontys ICT enthusiastically launched the Stolpersteine App. This app, developed in collaboration with Stichting 18 September, provides users with a digital guide to the stories behind the Stolpersteine in the Netherlands. The festive event was attended by about 50 invited guests and interested parties. The launch was kicked off by Peter Kemp, chairman of Stichting 18 September, followed by Onno Hoes, board member of the National Committee 4 and 5 May, and Frank van Dijk, secretary of Stichting 18 September and the driving force behind the creation of the app. There was also considerable media attention from outlets such as Studio 040, Noord Hollands Nieuws, and the Eindhovens Dagblad.

The Stolpersteine, also known as stumbling stones, are memorials for the victims of the Holocaust. The app contains the stories behind 15,500 Stolpersteine in the Netherlands and Belgium. Information about the memorial stones and the World War II victims for whom they were laid has been collected in a database. Users can read about birthdays, family members, deportation, and survivors via a map.

Importance of the App

Onno Hoes spoke about the significance of the app now being available and how it will help many people: “The beauty of this app is that it gives people a name and a face again, because as long as the names are mentioned, the people are still with us. I was thrilled when I heard that there is now a single app for the Netherlands and the entire Benelux. This is going to help so many people!”

Collaboration with Fontys ICT

Frank van Dijk, contact person at Stichting 18 September, continued: “In 2020, the conversion of the Struikelstenen database to the Stolpersteine App began. The technology for the Stolpersteine app on the web was quickly active, and a connection was made with the database of the War Sources Network in Amsterdam.”

The desire for an app persisted. At the end of 2022, Stichting 18 September came into contact with the Fontys ICT programme in Eindhoven, which was looking for projects for their students. These projects are usually focused on prototyping, but supervising teacher Marcel Veldhuizen saw potential in our wish. Ultimately, more than 50 Fontys students worked on the project, from ideas and prototypes to the final app that the current group of students has been able to complete as this tangible product.

Student Experiences and Future Prospects

Frank is impressed by the students: “The involvement of the young people is fantastic to see, even though the subject is from the time of their grandparents or great-grandparents. The whole world should know that Fontys ICT is a breeding ground for technology.”

The launch marks an important milestone, but the project does not stop here. Frank van Dijk says: “There are still various ideas on the table for new features in the app.”

Students Kyllian, Zhanton, Arjan, Mihail, Jakub, and Vladyslav demonstrated how to search for specific stones with the app and how to add information and photos, so the database continues to grow and the memorial site remains lively. Kyllian Warmerdam is impressed by the attention this launch is receiving. He says: "I didn't quite realise the impact it could have on people until today. All the people who are here, all the interested parties, that is very beautiful." He also highlights the pleasant collaboration with Frank from Stichting 18 September. "Frank was always available, even in the evenings, and communicating with him was quick."

There were also challenges, student Zhanton Bastiaanssen explains: "There is a lot of knowledge difference in the group, also because we came together from many different directions. In the end, we managed to make a good team out of it. What am I most proud of? The final product and that we actually managed to get it in the app store."

From Prototyping to Launch

Marcel Veldhuizen, a teacher at Fontys ICT, emphasises the importance of this project: “These projects are usually focused on prototyping, but this time our students were able to contribute to a tangible end product. Their involvement was fantastic.” Marcel adds: “The project presents students with complex challenges, or 'wicked problems.' Think of the client itself, but also Google, Microsoft, or another provider where the information for the app is stored. They have to consider GDPR (privacy legislation) and costs, because keeping software (including apps) running is not free. The client would like to know that.”

Impact and Motivation

Marcel further states: “They also make mistakes, but we teachers are happy to help them with those, and they learn a lot from those mistakes; it sticks well. When the app they are making also has an impact on society, like the Stolpersteine app, you see that the students are immediately intrinsically motivated to make something beautiful. This has a lot of value for the young people.”

Future Prospects

This collaboration between Stichting 18 September and Fontys ICT is a wonderful example of how educational institutions can contribute to social projects. We are immensely proud of the dedication and creativity of our students. This project shows that Fontys ICT is a breeding ground for innovation and technology, and it underscores our mission to contribute to society.

The app is available for download in the Google Play Store or Apple Store