Outreach to primary school children

Each time the QUICS project has a network training event, we have an associated school outreach event. As last week’s training was in Sheffield (UK), it was a good opportunity to give the outreach to younger children – all the other school outreach events take place in other European countries, so are aimed at older children who will speak some English.

Off to sample the duck pond
Off to sample the duck pond

A class of Year 4 (8-9 year old) children from Benjamin Adlard School in Gainsborough were invited to Sheffield to learn about the importance of water flows and quality in particular. The children were first taken to a nearby duck pond to collect some water samples before heading to the university to filter the samples and then analyse the filter papers under a microscope (we found some interesting creepy crawlies!). They also looked at dissolved oxygen concentrations, turbidity and pH, having the opportunity to try and get tap water to match the pH of the pond water by adding lemon juice or baking soda.

Lab analysis
Creepy crawlies under the microscope and explaining dissolved oxygen

Perhaps the highlight of the lab work was the boat race where the children made and decorated paper boats before racing them down the teaching flume, which had some bricks added to create rapids! To keep it a bit technical we got them to calculate the speed of their boats as well.

At the end of the day they all went home happy and sent some great thank you notes, we seem to have encouraged some future engineers and scientists, even if some were as impressed by the pizza at lunch as the science!

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Outreach to primary school children

QUICS Presence in the UDM!

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This year’s Urban Drainage Modelling Conference was the first of its kind for the QUICS fellows offering us great opportunities for learning, networking and presenting our early works.

The conference themes offered a variety of learning opportunities from modelling the transport of pollutants in collection systems and rivers to the effects of climate change on urban drainage networks. The program was nicely organized into three segments per day giving several options to choose from, but also not making it too overwhelming.

The people, the atmosphere and location

About 150 participants attended UDM, but although it was a large number, faces were familiar and people didn’t go unnoticed. In general, everyone was very happy to share their knowledge and expertise. I found this thrilling and set out to engage in conversations with my peers, and more experienced researchers and professionals such as Peter Vanrolleghem, David McCarthy and Giorgio Manina. These experiences have resulted in lots of new ideas and potential collaborations and even access to more data. However, there was so much more to the conference. The conference venue was at Mont Sainte-Anne, north-east of Quebec, a ski resort during winter and a beautiful landscape during the other seasons, with waterfalls that not only take your breath by all the stair steps you have to go down to see them, but also by their calming beauty.

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Uncertainty Analysis Methodologies Workshop

Why don’t our models work? And are all models wrong? These are the type of questions that were explored and discussed during the workshop organized by the Data and Models Working Group and QUICS. Deep uncertainties originating from social and population changes were addressed by Christian Urich opening another world of uncertainties to explore. Ambuj reminded us how economic and social decisions are affected by our uncertainty analysis. But also he explored the consideration of uncertainties due to the decision making process. Perhaps we can address these with simple yet innovative methods such as binary observations as described by Omar?

Back to the future! More uncertainties and special presentations!

Dr. Urich reminded us that the movie back to the future brought Marty to October 21st 2015, only a few days from now. How did our relatives imagine 2015? How do we imagine 20, 50, 100 years from now? How can we plan urban drainage networks considering this population, technological and other variables changes? Modelling! That’s part of the answer, but of course everything is uncertain and although we cannot forget that all models are imperfect, we do know that they are useful indeed.

The UDM programme was full of striking and even emotional stories such as the relocation of Kiruna city in Sweden (by Stina Ljung). Due to mining activity of the largest underground iron ore mine and land subsidence, the city is moving to a new safer location and although it’s  devastating to demolish the old city, an opportunity for a more sustainable and reliable water infrastructure was presented.

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QUICS Oral and Poster presentations

Let the pictures speak for themselves!

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Best young professional paper of UDM!

We are very proud of Omar for winning the best paper from young water professional! On his paper, Omar and his team suggest to use binary signals to calibrate better urban drainage models. These binary signals can be for instance sensors that indicate whether an overflow occurs or not. Their methodology involves a likelihood function that extracts the information from these binary observations. Their method was tested on a rainfall-runoff model using the binary information of overflow occurrences against continuous flow data. Their findings showed similar Nash-Sutcliffe efficiencies for the binary observations and continuous data. (Wani, Blumensaat et al. 2015). These are already great achievements for Omar and we will be looking closely his research and new developments.

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A great trip…

Canada was a lot of fun!

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But more than that, it was a great experience were we collected new ideas, established new relationships with colleagues working in similar topics to ours and grew professionally a little bit or a lot more. By presenting our work, and receiving feedback, we gained insights about what is out there, what needs to be found and where to look for the solutions. And as we find these solutions, we come across more questions and the cycle goes on and on.

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Thank you to my colleagues for sharing photographs for this post!

References

Wani, O., F. Blumensaat, A. Scheidegger, T. Doppler and J. Rieckermann (2015). Parameter estimation of urban drainage models using binaryobservations from low-cost sensors. The International Urban Drainage Modelling (UDM), Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec, Canada.

QUICS Presence in the UDM!