Thursday, March 19, 2015

Kids' Lab at the University of Basel Explores River Science

Dr. Nikolaus Kuhn and Debora Haller work with students at the Kid's Lab. Photo by Brigitte Kuhn.
The University of Basel’s Kids’ Lab illustrates the world of natural science to children between 6 and 12 years of age by engaging them in hands-on exploration.

Debora Haller is the head of the Kids' Lab. The Physical Geography and Environmental Change Research Group of the University of Basel supports the lab, including Dr. Nikolaus Kuhn, Dr. Wolfgang Fister and Brigitte Kuhn.

The students were asked at the starting point of a recent session using the Emriver Em2 geomodel how a gorge like the Grand Canyon can form. The children were free to hypothesize, and soon they found out the answer by running an experiment in the Em2.

First they helped fill up the Em2 with its granulate material—color-coded-by-size modeling media made of melamine plastic—which got them physically involved. With the guidance of an expert scientist, they built a plateau and then let the water run through. They were asked to observe different processes visible, such as infiltration, seepage, erosion and deposition and to put their observations into words, which involved them mentally. Once the canyon had formed, they documented the sequence of erosion on a worksheet to record their findings.

A model house in the Emriver Em2 geomodel. Photo by Debora Haller/Brigitte Kuhn.
Following the structured part of the lab, the more fun part followed. In groups the children had the task to save a model house placed at the riverbank from being swept away by flood water. They figured out solutions themselves or with the assistance of the instructors, such as supporting the bank with boulders and trees.

The children had their hands and minds engaged in this sensory learning experience. Little side-experiments were carried out—for example islands were heaped up, only to discover the river constantly sweeps the sediment away again. That brought up the subject of artificial islands, like Palm Islands built in the Persian Gulf, and what problems might turn up there. Overall, geological processes became visible, tangible and fun, even for the smallest kids in this session of the Kids’ Lab.

Students experiment with the Em2. Photo by Debora Haller/Brigitte Kuhn.

It is wonderful to see a university who is doing sophisticated research with an Em2 and Emflume1 also use the Em2 to educate young students—our researchers of the future.

Dr. Wolfgang Fister teaches students at the Kids' Lab. Photo by Debora Haller/Brigitte Kuhn.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Teaching remote sensing concepts and methods with Emriver Modeling Media

Our Emriver color-coded-by-size modeling media is labeled as component 3
in this figure from Clark's paper.
Editors note: This blog post was written by our new River Scientist, Dr. Amanda Nelson.

Recently our Emriver color-coded-by-size modeling media was featured in a paper written by Dr. Jeffrey J. Clark, out of the Lawrence University Department of Geology and Environmental Studies.

In “ ‘Hands-on’ Remote Sensing of Physical Models in Exploration of Surficial Processes,” Clark utilizes our color-coded media to teach remote sensing concepts and methods. Remote sensing is the science of obtaining information about objects or areas from a distance, typically from aircraft or satellites.

Clark emphasizes the importance of using physical models when demonstrating various aspects of science. All the projects he described use data acquisition systems consisting of common consumer electronics (e.g. a digital camera and Microsoft Kinect) to track changes in time and space (temporal and spatial) in a scale model of a fluvial setting.

The first project was designed for GIS and Earth Science courses and involved taking photography of the fluvial models and creating Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) from them. Then, the class compared those DEMs to DEMs of Mars topology.

Another project was geared toward an Introduction to Remote Sensing course. It involved using the camera and software to demonstrate procedures and theories of remote sensing by experimenting with resolution and the equipment.

There was also a more experimental portion using the same camera and computer program to simulate remote sensing and how it helps science today. They ran a stream model while photographing it and subtracting the resulting DEMs from the initial DEMs to get a map of the change over time, including erosion and sedimentation, after predicting the changes they expected. This imitates what can be done with satellite imagery of streams. 

A figure from Clark's paper.

A figure from Clark's paper.

It is exciting to see our modeling media used for this application. GIS and remote sensing add to the richness of fields for which Emriver products have already been found useful, including geomorphology, hydrology, civil engineering and more. 

Clark's paper can be found on our Resources Page of The page compiles materials to help Emriver users get the most out of their models.