SeriousGeoGamer Chloe Morris (@chloemorris_13) wins Prize!

Chloe Morris, a PhD student at the University of Hull, recently presented her research at the British Geological Survey’s (BGS) University Funding Initiative (BUFI) Annual Science Festival. Held at Herriot-Watt University, Chloe’s poster ‘Modelling the Interations Between Coasts and Estuaries’ featured a demonstration of Humber in a Box, and she won the “Best Overall Poster” award and £200.

“I presented my project which focuses on the interactions between coast and estuarine environments and I used the Google Cardboards to show one of the numerical models that I am using to carry out my research” – Chloe Morris

The event aimed to bring together current BUFI students and provide them the opportunity to share their research with each other, staff from the BGS, researchers at Herriot-Watt University, and local sixth-form students.

Chloe’s research aims to couple two numerical models together to simulate interactions between the Humber Estuary and the Holderness Coast. This is important as erosion from the cliffs washes a lot of sediment into the Humber Estuary and this can cause changes to the shape and depth of the Estuary bed, potentially causing problems to things like shipping traffic. Using models like this, Chloe will be able to make predictions of how climate change might effect the Estuary in the future.

Chloe used the Humber in a Box demo and Google Cardboard headsets to demonstrate how numerical models work.

“It’s difficult to explain or show on a poster what a numerical model is or what it does, but the Google Cardboards were a really useful tool that helped me to explain my methods to a mixed audience” – Chloe Morris

Well done Chloe, we look forward to seeing more of your research in the future.

The Origins of TideBox (aka Humber in a Box)

You may know it as Humber in a Box but because we have big plans for the application we are changing the name to TideBox Beta. Whatever the name, TideBox has come from very humble beginnings.

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VR view of TideBox Beta

It all began in the first couple of weeks of my first job after my thesis submission. I was working as a part-time Research Assistant for a project called Dynamic Humber, and my job was to use the CAESAR-Lisflood model to simulate long-term development of the Humber Estuary.

This was half a year before the storm surge of December 5th 2013 and flooding was not on the radar for the research programme – instead we were trying to crack modelling the sediment processes in the Estuary. The model is designed for rivers primarily, so needed to be adapted and tested for use in tidal conditions. I was continuing the work of Jorge Ramirez, and even now this work is ongoing with PhD candidate Chloe Morris leading the charge.

I was asked to present the Dynamic Humber project to the public at the Hull Science Showcase, the forerunner of the massively popular Hull Science Festival. I had no experience of science outreach at all, and only two weeks in the job – with the help of my colleague Sally Little (we were the Dynamic (Humber) Duo), we produced a poster and a short video detailing the programme. They were bad and a great example of how not to do public engagement.

Recently though, the “On This Day” feature on Facebook did trawl up a long forgotten memory for me – part of the video featured an ArcGIS fly through of the Humber Estuary data we were using for the model, including the Humber Bridge towers (very much not to scale). It took a few attempts to fly between the towers! I guess this was the initial inception of what would become Humber in a Box, and hopefully TideBox.

Thanks for reading,

Chris

Flash Flood! Living Manual Update + The GA Conference

We’ve recently made a small update to the Living Manual for Flash Flood! Desktop, providing a brief description and background to the July 17th 2007 flash flood from intense rainfall event at Thinhope Burn. Included is a map of the area, hyetographs of the event, before and after Google Earth images, plus a description of landscape sensitivity theory. All this information will be very useful if you plan on using Flash Flood! in your classroom.

We’ve also made is simpler to download the software, please follow these steps –

  1. Register yourself by emailing us at seriousgeogames@gmail.com providing us your name, where you are (company/institution/school etc) and how you intend to use the software.
  2. You will be sent a link to a OneDrive folder
  3. Download the “setup.exe” file
  4. Double-click the downloaded file and follow the installation
  5. Enjoy!
  6. Don’t forget to give us your feedback – we greatly appreciate your thoughts

The Geographical Association Annual Meeting 2016, Manchester

Lynda Yorke and Chris Skinner on the stand for the British Society for Geomorphology

In other news, we were very pleased to support the British Society for Geomorphology with their stand at the annual meeting of the Geographical Association. We got to show the software to lots of teachers, demonstrating the importance of Geomorphology to flooding. Many expressed interest in using the software, and you can get hold of it following the steps above.

 

Flash Flood! Desktop – Official Launch March 10th 2016

We are very happy to announce we will be launching Flash Flood! Desktop officially on March 10th 2016, at the Early Career Researchers meeting of the NERC-funded Flash Flooding from Intense Rainfall (FFIR) project.

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Flash Flood! was designed to act as an outreach tool for the NERC-FFIR project, and was funded by the project’s Public Engagement fund.

The application places a user inside a virtual river valley as it experiences a catastrophic flash flood. The flood causes massive changes to the geomorphology of the river through processes of erosion and deposition, changing the shape of the river, stripping out plants and trees, and even moving boulders. This is all based on a real event that happened in 2007 on a small river in the uplands of the North of England.

The Flash Flood! virtual valley (left) and Thinhope Burn on which it is based (right)

The Flash Flood! valley is built using data collected by geomorphologists (scientists who seek to understand the changing shapes of the planet’s surface) in the field, both before and after the actual flash flood event, and the animation of the flooding is based on results of computer modelling.

It is expected in the Summer of 2016 that Flash Flood! VR will be available once the latest Oculus Rift and Oculus-Ready PCs have been shipped.

Copies of the software can be made available freely by registering as a user – do this by emailing the SeriousGeoGames (at gmail dot com) Gmail account. We will be progressively adding supporting materials and class guides alongside the software.

Flash Flood! Our new project with @BetaJesterLtd #MadewithUnity

We are pleased to announce that we have started working with developers from BetaJester on our latest project, Flash Flood!

Flash Flood! is being produced as part of the Flash Flooding from Intense Rainfall (FFIR) research programme, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), and is designed to highlight the destructive power of flash floods. This work has taken particular significance in light of the recent flooding in the UK over December.

Flash Flood! will use the latest Oculus Rift headsets, only available on pre-order this week, and is built using the Unity-3D gaming engine. The virtual reality experience will allow you to explore a pristine river valley, and soak up the sun by its pleasant and gentle stream. This changes with the weather, as an intense convective storm darkens the skies and heavy rainfall falls on the upper headlands of the valley. This triggers landslides, cascading debris into the river, trapping flood water before it bursts down the river, swelling the gentle stream into a raging torrent.

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The river valley before  the storm

The river flow, full of stones, rocks, trees and other debris strips the river banks of its plants, and changes the nature of the river and its valley. After surviving the storm, you can then explore the river valley once more and see for yourself the changes it underwent in just a few hours of flooding.

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The river valley after the storm (trees to be added)

The images in this post are very early development screenshots and we think they look great. They are built from data collected in the field and based on an actual flash flood event – we’ll be updating our website shortly to give more details on this.

We’re really excited about Flash Flood! and hope to be bringing to an event near you soon!

SeriousGeoGames at the AGU #AGU15

In December SGG founder Chris Skinner travelled to the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, in San Francisco, to present on Humber in a Box. AGU is the world’s largest Earth and Planetary Sciences conference, with over 25,000 attendees, and this year included talks by former Vice-President of the USA and climate campaigner, Al Gore, and Space-X CEO, Elon Musk. Nestled on the Friday afternoon, in the “Amazing Games and Superb Simulations for Science Education” session, Chris gave his talk about Humber in a Box and how it has been used to communicate flood risk. Here are his thoughts.

The session was convened by Randy Russell of the Center for Science Education, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), and has been going for several years. It was a little intimidating to be presenting in front of an established community, unsure how Humber in a Box even fitted into that, never mind how well it would be received. Randy introduced us to his page where he has collected useful applications and games suitable for science education. Take a look here.

He also compiled a page for the session, where you can view the abstracts for the talks here. There was a strong flooding theme in the first half of the session, it is obviously on a lot of people’s minds! The first talk by Jonathan Gilligan showed a game where users were in charge of flood risk management for a group of towns. Floods are generated randomly and the users were able to respond, until the end of the game when a large flood is simulated. The idea of the game was to provoke emotional responses to the flooding – where the defences failed the user is meant to relate this to people and their houses, rather than just pixels on a screen. This highlights the need to consider full human and nature relationships in planning for flooding.

The second talk by Ibrahim Demir of the University of Iowa highlighted a range of some of the excellent tools being built there. These include interactive 3D web-based tools that utilises virtual reality and augmented reality technology.  One simulation allowed users to visualise future flood risk zones in 3D, overlain on Google Earth with 3D building and rendering, whilst another was a virtual river reach where the land  and water levels could be manually altered – this could be projected onto a desk (on a monitor) via a webcam and AR tech. These were some really cool ideas.

My talk was third. I showed the basic functionality of Humber in a Box, and then set in context with Hull and the Humber and the 2013 storm surge flooding. I explained how it is used to inform people about flood risk and the management behind it, and how it has been used at events to promote flood risk awareness. I even managed to get in some quotes by Philip Larkin and a plug for City of Culture 2017! I think it was well received. I was asked a question referring back to Jonathan’s talk, whether the users get an emotional response to Humber in a Box – from my experience, no. Much of the functionality deals with very extreme ‘what if?’ scenarios which tend to dampen any emotional response to the simulations.

The final flooding related talk was by Margie Turrin of Columbia University, who showed an interactive sea level rise application, which layered data sources from multiple platforms together. This allows users to visualise what sea levels have looked like in the past and how they might appear in the future – they can then dig a little deeper, exploring the science and data behind it.

Unfortunately, I had to leave the session at this point and check in on a session I was co-convening (thanks to Matt Perks for chairing!). I really enjoyed the session, I got some great ideas and it’s nice to see such a lively and productive community over in the States – I’m sure we can establish one in the UK too. I’m not sure if I’ll be back at AGU next year, but I will certainly be keeping my eye on this session in the future.

New Website!

Well hello there. Welcome to the new SeriousGeoGames website. This is the new home for all the information you might need about our applications and exhibits, and eventually will play host to the free educational resources we aim to produce.

The site at the moment includes information on our existing application, Humber in a Box, and the past events we have exhibited at. We’ve also got a page jammed full of links to some of our favourite games and application by some cool and clever people.

You will notice we also have a section devoted to our upcoming application, Flash Flood! We will be updating this in the near future, so make sure you check the site, our Twitter or Facebook to hear the exciting news.