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Felienne Hermans receives Dutch Prize for ICT Research 2021

The Dutch Prize for ICT Research 2021 goes to Felienne Hermans, associate professor at the Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science. She receives the prize for her research on making computer science and programming accessible to a wide audience and for her pioneering role in establishing a new direction within Dutch ICT research and education. The prize includes a sum of € 50,000, which she is free to use to strengthen her research.


From the six candidates nominated, Hermans emerged as a worthy recipient of the prize. ‘I am very honored with the ICT prize,’ says Hermans proudly. ‘Not only is it a boost for me, but also for everyone involved in educational research it's a good signal that research into learning to program falls under ICT research!’ She was rewarded for her efforts to make programming and programming languages more accessible to children, resulting in the programming language Hedy. Hedy is a programming language that teaches children to program step by step. By the end of last year, Hedy reached the 100,000 program mark, which was partly thanks to the corona crisis, as it got quickly populair during this time. It became a global success as other programmers translated Hedy into Spanish, Portuguese and French.

Dr. ir. Felienne Hermans

Language learning

Hedy follows the same structure as learning a language. Hermans: ‘Learning to program can be seen as learning a language, except that you are communicating with your computer instead of your fellow human beings. In language lessons at elementary school it is very common to read out loud. In programming classes, children don't do that, even though it helps them remember the material better.’ Hermans hopes that elementary school teachers will use Hedy to think up assignments themselves. ‘The best thing would be if this was used not only by computer science teachers but also by teachers from other subject areas,’ says Hermans. ‘That way, students get the sense that programming skills can benefit them in all sorts of ways.’ 

The prestigious Dutch Prize for ICT Research is awarded annually to a scientific researcher, up to 15 years after their PhD, who has conducted innovative research or is responsible for a scientific breakthrough in ICT. The prize is made available by the ICT Research Platform Netherlands (IPN) in collaboration with NWO through the Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities. During ICT.OPEN 2021, which takes place on 10 and 11 February 2021, Hermans will receive the Dutch Prize for ICT research.

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