Wednesday, November 12, 2014

‘River Residency’ with University of Michigan

Elementary students are getting hands-on river training thanks to the work of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and our portable Emriver models.

UM’s “River Residency” water education workshops use our Emriver Em3 geomodel at a local school to teach river science with a focus on erosion, flooding and groundwater pollution.

The photo below shows Alicia Comer, UM’s Museum of Natural History science outreach curriculum developer, teaching students about the interactions between humans and rivers. Students fortified banks with simulated vegetation and riprap. Their town flooded, and they learned what factors can lead to destruction.

Students build a town in the Emriver Em3 geomodel.

The next photo shows students using modeling media to build a dam. The students predicted the water would rise up over the dam. Instead they observed water penetrating the bottom of the dam which quickly destroyed it.

Students watch the river interact with their dam.

UM’s pilot River Residency in May spanned three days and involved students in second through fifth grade. Eleven classes in total took part, and workshops were customized for each grade level.

The second grade workshop explored flooding, and the students answered questions about where rainwater goes and what happens to a river during a flood.

Third grade students focused on how flowing water shapes a landscape. They experimented with multiple methods of erosion control.

Fourth and fifth graders studied how humans affect a watershed. They used dye to study how pollutants such as fertilizers spread.

UM plans to return to the same school next semester and expand the River Residency program.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Mississippi River Watershed Education Symposium starts Nov. 14

As the daughter of a teacher, education is at the core of my being, and for a few weeks now I’ve been looking forward to an upcoming event.

A few of us from Little River Research & Design will be attending the Mississippi River Watershed Education Symposium in Godfrey, Ill. in November and engaging our fellow attendees with an Emriver Em3 geomodel and Emflume1.

The deadline to register for MRWES has been extended to Friday, Nov. 7. Originally the deadline was Tuesday, Nov. 4.

The symposium will be held at the Lewis and Clark Community College campus on Nov. 14 and 15. It aims to aid the development and growth of science-based watershed education programs. MRWES is organized by the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center.

Presentations and workshops will focus on watershed concepts, natural history and environmental education, cultural history, civic engagement, sustainability, and concepts focused on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math).

The keynote speakers are Sean O’Connor, program manager of educational mapping for National Geographic Education, and Chad Pregracke, president and founder of Living Lands & Waters and the 2013 CNN Hero of the Year.

You can follow LRRD @gravelbar and @annadurrett for tweets during the symposium, and we’ll be using #MRWES2014. You can also follow the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center @NGRREC.

An Em3 in use at LRRD.

I look forward to meeting and learning from many passionate educators at MRWES, as well as demonstrating how to use the Em3 and Emflume1 for hands-on education. Hope to see you there!

An Emflume1 in use at LRRD.

Editor's note: This post was updated Monday, Nov. 3 to reflect the registration deadline extension for MRWES.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

'Beyond the Stream Table' and 'Using the Emriver Em2' at GSA 2014 Vancouver

Next week in Vancouver at the Geological Society of America annual meeting, there will be two Emriver-related digital posters included in the Pedagogical Use of Physical Models topical session.

The session is on Tuesday, Oct. 21 from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. in Vancouver Convention Centre-West Exhibition Hall C. Authors will be present from 9-11 a.m and 5-6:30 p.m.

The session will host eight additional posters, including others by Emriver model users on such topics as  alternative modeling media.

Our Steve Gough and Emriver Em3 geomodel at GSA 2013 Denver. You can see our blog post about last year's GSA here.

Little River Research & Design won’t have a booth at GSA this year, but it's one of our favorite conferences. We hope everyone has a great time in Vancouver, and we'll see you next year at GSA 2015 Baltimore!

Many thanks to our enthusiastic Emriver model teachers and researchers, particularly Matt Kuchta, who's dreamed up many ways to use his!

In the left corner you can see Matt Kuchta at our booth last year at GSA. Matt used an Xbox Kinect to make a 3D model of topography in one of our Emriver Em2 geomodels (shown here is our Em3). You can see his posts about the Emflume1 at GSA here. You can see and/or join the Google+ Emriver Working Group created and operated by Matt here.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The perfect machinist's apron.

(Ed. note: No river science or geomorphology today!  This is a post about the perfect shop apron, designed at Little River Research & Design!)

As a thanks to all the professional machinists who’ve helped me online, here’s a shop apron design.

Please note I am NOT selling anything here, not the design, not aprons; just passing along my experience.

You’ll wonder why you didn’t do this years ago if, like me, you’ve not liked any of your shop aprons. I haven’t been able to find a decent ready made one, so I made my own.

 I used cotton duck fabric. I started with an old apron and modified from there.  I can sew a bit, so I made mine.  If you don’t have friend or family to sew it, you can always find a local alterations place to do it; it’s a very easy project. In that case, just mock it up with butcher paper and take it to them; a good drawing would probably work as well.

There are also patterns you could modify.   Check a fabric store.   Especially if you want one that wraps around you, I didn't; that would be too hot for me.   Having a tight wrap-around apron (check "French apron") might be just what you want.

 Above:  Me at Little River Research with my home-made apron.  It goes below my knees; one benefit is that it usually catches things I drop when I'm sitting down.

 I made the pocket high and small (and the front of the apron, too, most don’t come up high enough for me) and just the size for a few things; notebook, scriber, pencil, ruler or two — and tight to keep chips out; that’s worked great.
The wide cross straps were made by seaming a tube (think seam-welded pipe) and turning it inside out.  No skinny string digging into your neck.  And the cross strap design just slips on like a t-shirt; you don’t need any ties or buckles.  You could add these if you’re not fat like me and want to look trimmer, or keep the apron out of moving machinery.

If you do work around dangerous machinery, perhaps use big buttons where the straps join the apron; something that will disconnect if it gets caught and not drag you in; I would change that on my design.

Length is about the knee; that’s optional.  I do like that this length protects my usually bare legs, and also if you’re sitting at the bench and drop a tool or part, it usually ends up in the apron and not on the floor!  I would also change this one so the sides wrapped around a bit more; I have the habit of using the apron to wipe my hands and I often miss and hit my shirt on the sides.

If you make it yourself, I'd recommend attaching the straps at the top (front, near pocket) and then experimenting a bit with safety pins on the bottom strap attachment point (and strap length) to get it just right.    Or make them adjustable; here a big button would work; maybe even one turned out of aluminum!

Straps are bar tacked to sides, but you might want to use something that would release if machinery catches it, like a big button or snaps.  I experimented with the length and attachment point until I got it just right; just use safety pins.

 The crossed straps are very comfortable and you just put the thing on like a t-shirt, no knots to tie.  No skinny string digging into your neck all day.

Bar-tacked front straps; again, something that would release if the apron is caught in machinery might be better.  A big turned aluminum button would be pretty cool.

I put the pocket high on my chest and made it tight with just the space for things I keep there; this has worked great to keep chips out, and things don't fall out when I bend over.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Summer of Flumes

We’ve had an exciting summer at LRRD. After six years of development, the Emflume1 is now on three continents, and we seem to be busier than ever.

Back in May, Emflume1 users at the University of Adelaide Australian School of Petroleum sent us several photos, and we've shared a few here.

Geologist and Ph.D. Candidate Jess Trainor, Lecturer in Sedimentology Kathryn Amos, and Geologist and Ph.D. Candidate John Counts pose for a photo with their new Emflume1.
Jess studies the Emriver Color-Coded-by-Size Modeling Media in the Emflume1.
Jess and John experiment with the Emflume1.

Steve, Jim and I took two Emflume1s, two Em3s and one Em2 to the American Society for Engineering Education annual conference that was held in Indianapolis in June.

It was the first time Jim and I attended an ASEE conference, and it was definitely an enjoyable experience. We got to talk with some of our model users and curious LRRD newcomers as well.

Jim stands ready for thousands of visitors.
Jim demonstrates how the Emflume1 works.
A visitor experiments with an Emflume1.
Jim explains the impact of a human-built structure to the river channel in the Em3.
Anna talks with a visitor about the Em2.
Jim describes the erosion occurring in the Em2.

Later in June, Researcher II, Facilities Manager Andy Coursey with Southern Illinois University in Carbondale visited LRRD and picked up SIU's Emflume1.

Andy and Steve discuss the functions of the Emfllume1.

It's been a great season for water education, and I'm looking forward to shipping more models and the excitement continuing through the fall season!

Anna experiments with an Emflume1.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

An Emflume1 off to Switzerland!

We shipped an Emflume1 to Nikolaus (Klaus) Kuhn at the University of Basel today.

Klaus does some amazing work; check out this video at ZeroG flights.

Props to LRRD colleagues Jim Nation and Anna Durrett, who put in extra time to get this shipment done exactly right.  And to contractor John Cotter for his work.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

July 16, 2014 at Little River.

We've been too busy to blog.  Why?  Growing, busy, crazy.

A snapshot:  Beth Fisher's joined us in a planning/management role, Anna's her old self, Meriam remains our amazing business director; Keisha Lurhsen's working in the shop and office; Radia (Meriam's daughter) is a summer intern, Akiyo Matsumoto (松本 明代) is our Japanese laison.  My wife Kate's co-owner.  Jim Nation runs the shop, Cameron Lenzini is an undergrad intern; Wahid Rahman is a post-doc collaborator leaving for a new job next week, and Awoke Teshager  is an ABD engineer from SIU who will work with us on the Emflume.

Here we include our contractors John Cotter (left, a man who's certified to work on jet engines) and Bill Bauman.  No sentence, no book, could do justice to Bill and the things he's done in his life, and for Little River, so he's just Bill for now.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The UK's Rivers Trust uses our Em2 to protect people from floods.
                                                                  >> Click the image above for link to video on Vimeo.

 Last winter England saw terrible flooding that has renewed concern over river and floodplain management in the UK and EU.

Parts of the UK saw the wettest January in history. 

The Rivers Trust is a key player in advancing knowledge and practice in this area; our Emriver Em2 was shown at its recent Spring Conference and featured in a well-done video news report by itv's Katie Hunter.

Flooded fields around the river Tone in Somerset. Photograph: Tim Ireland/PA  (From The Guardian)
At the conference, floodplain managers from northeastern Europe and the UK discussed the ALFA initiative.  This EU-funded project aims to address increased climate-change-caused flooding in northeastern Europe.

Many thanks to Alistair Maltby (Rivers Trust Director - North) for letting us know about this coverage, and for his successful use of our model in this important role.

Our 2-meter Em2 models don't pay the bills at LRRD, but fulfill our mission to provide practical river models for education and outreach at a cost affordable to educators and non-profits.  Seeing them play this important role so well (in the able hands of Rivers Trust staff) makes us eager to get to work building more!

And speaking of building, this is a good opportunity to show Jim and Anna celebrating the shipment of our 200th model last month.

UPDATE:  June 26 Guardian article on UK flood infrastructure deficiencies.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Help us design a cart for the Emflume1.

We live in a shark-filled capitalist world where people steal designs, and the thousands of hours it took to make them.

So our design process has to be kept under wraps.  Usually.

Today I have a chance to reveal our design process and ask you for help!

Our Emflume1 --the result of five years of design effort -- was a big hit at ASEE 2014 last week.  We need a cart for it.  Design problems:

1.  The model should fit inside the cart for shipping protection and also for storage, which is a big deal for a lot of university departments. 

2.  We could build the cart from "80/20" extrusions.  Cool stuff we already use.  Or weld up an aluminum frame in-house.  Not much difference in cost.  Which would be best environmentally?  We might make 100 a year.

3. For the top and shelf, I'm considering Corian (we have a local fabricator); Starbord, HDPE, and other stuff.  Has to be very strong, zero-maintenance, and tolerate water.  The top is the toughest part of the design.

I've scoured the Internet for carts that meet our needs, and none do. 

LRRD's Jim Nation at ASEE 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA last week.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

ASEE in Indianapolis and so much other good stuff!

Buttons to celebrate 200.
Anna and Jim celebrate the hard-won move in to the Indiana Convention Center.
Me, Anna, and driver Jim Nation on the way to Indianapolis, Indiana and ASEE.  Great company!

 Bad news: this blog has been neglected.  Good news is we’ve been too busy to write about all the cool things LRRD’s doing.

We have a waiting list now on our Em2 models; they are selling faster than we can build them.

The first production Emflume1 units are finished; this was a huge job.   We have engaged gifted post-doc Wahid Rahman to work with me (Steve) and Kathryn Shulte Graham at Northeastern on a comprehensive curriculum to go with it.

We are working with Loligo Systems in Denmark to adapt their DPTV velocity measurement system to the Emflume1.

We’ve shipped our 200th Emriver model.

NOW we’re in Indianapolis for the American Society of Engineering Educators (ASEE) conference.  Anna, Jim and I have just unpacked our truck.

Monday, May 19, 2014

A treadmill desk for LRRD!

All of us at LRRD spend a lot of time sitting at computers, and it's not good for you.

After hearing about treadmill desks, I set out to build one. 

I see they're available commercially now, but that's no fun.  Research and Design, right?

So far, so good.  We need to refine the keyboard holder.  And Jim and I both had some motion sickness after using it, but I think we'll get used to that.  Today I walked about a half mile while answering email!

We'll report on how it works out.

Treadmill desk at LRRD May 2014 from Steve Gough on Vimeo.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Our plastic sand demonstrates mass wasting. A draft.

Mass wasting and other slope processes using Emriver plastic sand. from Steve Gough on Vimeo.

At LRRD we have notebooks full of "what ifs" for our models.  As I worked on other things last weekend I put together this little demonstration and checked one off the list.

The video speaks for itself.  I've always known our plastic media could be used to demonstrate hillslope processes, but this is the first time I've attempted to record it.

I'm a fluvial guy and not so well versed on slope stability outside of the situations I see in stream banks — and even those are usually handled by a geotechnical engineer on my team.

So I'd appreciate comments on this little demonstration and how we can improve and expand it.

I was surprised to see how well the "mudflow" demo worked, especially since my wetting method was very crude.  With slow, methodical saturation of the slope, I think we could make wonderful simulations of this process.

We will likely have some interns working here this summer, and this looks like a great project for one!

As noted in the video, the flickering you see is from one of the awesome skylights we installed — great for energy savings, but not too hot for time lapse lighting on a partly cloudy day!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

We ship an Emriver Em3 to Liaoning, China.

Today we shipped a dual-tilting Em3 model to a museum in Liaoning, China. 

Four separate crates will travel to China via ocean freight.  They hold a reinforced Em3 and lots of spare parts.

When the museum’s buyers first contacted us I assigned the project to Alee Quick, I saw it as a long shot.

Months passed as Alee and Meriam and I negotiated huge cultural and language barriers — I didn’t think we could overcome those.  But Alee made it happen.  We had help from Chinese speakers in Carbondale and hired a Chinese-American lawyer in Chicago to write a contract.

Building and crating the model for shipping was a marathon effort.  Thanks to John Cotter, his super skilled daughter Kelli, and to Jim and JM at LRRD.

Jim Nation put in many extra hours this week to make things perfect.   

We do things nobody else in the world does.   Now we envision tens of thousands of people in China learning about rivers when this Em3 we built in Carbondale, Illinois goes to work.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Stream ecology in the LRRD lab

Students studying stream ecology at Southern Illinois University visited our lab yesterday.

Steve lectured about geomorphology, and the students practiced taking long profiles in the Em3.

Check out the video recap below.

Stream ecology class at LRRD's lab. from Steve Gough on Vimeo.