From October 21st to 29th, APOPO proudly participated in the Dutch Design Week, held in the vibrant city of Eindhoven, The Netherlands. Nestled within the TU/e exhibition, ‘Drivers of Change,’ APOPO showcased its potentially groundbreaking Search and Rescue rat project, particularly focusing on the remarkable contributions of our rats in training. The week reached its pinnacle on November 26th when Her Majesty, Queen Máxima of the Netherlands graced APOPO’s booth, displaying keen interest in this innovative project.
Queen Máxima impressed by search and rescue exhibition
Esther Haalboom, representing APOPO, had the honor of warmly welcoming H.M. Queen Máxima to the booth, where she provided an overview of our Search and Rescue rat project and activities. The highlight of the presentation was the introduction of the RescueRATs, a team of rodents equipped with cutting-edge technology being trained to to assist in disaster-stricken areas. Queen Máxima, known for her commitment to humanitarian causes, engaged with the presentation, demonstrating a genuine interest in the potential impact of these remarkable creatures.
One of the key contributors to this innovative search and rescue rat project is Sander Verdiesen, a former student of Electrical Engineering at Eindhoven University of Technology. Sander designed a specialized backpack for the rats, incorporating a camera, GPS, and two-way communication capabilities. This backpack equips the rats to navigate through the tiniest openings under rubble, effectively locating victims trapped in the aftermath of earthquakes or other disasters. When a rat finds a survivor, it can activate a signal by pulling a button on its chest, alerting the rescue team to the victim’s location and facilitating a swift and targeted rescue operation.
During the royal visit, Esther had the opportunity to present two prototypes of the specialized backpacks that Sander designed to Queen Máxima, providing a tangible representation of the technological support that enables these rodents to carry out life-saving missions. In the background, a captivating video showcased the RescueRATs in action, highlighting their agility, precision, and the critical role they will play in search and rescue efforts.
Despite the brevity of the encounter, the Queen exhibited a genuine curiosity and enthusiasm for the project. While the Dutch Design Week has been attracting numerous visitors for years, it was quite unusual for the queen to visit the event. It seems she did so at her own request, accompanied by a close friend, underscoring the importance she places on initiatives that have the potential to address global challenges. Queen Máxima confided to Esther that she is a little afraid of rats. Nevertheless, her apprehension diminished after she was briefed on the details of the project and how we work together.
The ‘Drivers of Change’ exhibition, within which APOPO featured its pioneering Search and Rescue rats, exemplifies a forward-looking perspective on how the world of the future is being shaped. The showcased projects not only highlight the challenges that lie ahead but also offer tangible and innovative solutions to address them. APOPO’s participation in this exhibition is a testament to the organization’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of ‘technology’ and leveraging unconventional yet effective means to contribute to the greater good.
APOPO’s presence at the Dutch Design Week, particularly the royal acknowledgment from Queen Máxima, serves as a testament to the organization’s impactful work in the realm of search and rescue. The RescueRATs, with their remarkable capabilities and the technology developed by visionaries like Sander Verdiesen, stand out as innovative heroes, offering hope and a practical solution for tomorrow’s challenges.