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.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Keisha graduates from SIUC

Our colleague Keisha Luhrsen is now with us full time!

As of December, Keisha is officially a graduate of Southern Illinois University - Carbondale, and she holds a bachelor’s degree in zoology.

Part of her field work included sampling vegetation composition and density on various sites along the Cache River wetlands and tracking local populations of swamp rabbits via radio telemetry.

Keisha started working with us at Little River in 2013. Her knowledge of wildlife biology and ecology strengthens our ability to fulfill our mission of helping river ecosystems through education.

Keisha working with an Emriver Em3 geomodel in our shop.

Keisha started working with us at Little River in 2013. Her knowledge of wildlife biology and ecology strengthens our ability to fulfill our mission of helping river ecosystems through education.

Currently as our assistant prototyper, Keisha focuses on building our Emriver geomodels and Emflume1.

From our Structures Kit to our Alix Digital Flow Controller, Keisha builds what our model users need to teach and conduct research using her skills in soldering and working with acrylics.

She’s also a skilled packer and readies models to journey to clients and conferences within the U.S. and around the world.

We’re happy to have such a great assistant prototyper here at Little River with us five days a week. We appreciate all you do, Keisha!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Our Em2 and Emflume1 models at AGU 2014

Last month several of us went to the American Geophysical Union fall meeting. The meeting had record attendance! Over 24,000 science professionals and students converged in San Francisco from many parts of the world.

People poured into our booth to see our Emriver Em2 geomodel and two of our Emflume1 models. We met new people and saw familiar faces as well.

Akiyo shows the impact gravel mining has on a river.

Jim, Anna, Akiyo and Meriam relax in the exhibit hall.

Our Emflume1 models simultaneously educate and mesmerize.

We debuted our Emflume1 lab manual, which was written by Awoke Teshager, one of Little River’s research scientists. It currently has seven experiments with more to come.

Awoke is pictured on the right in the photo below. Further below are two of his drawings from our Emflume1 lab manual.

Jim demonstrates how to adjust the standpipe in the Em2.

A figure from our experiment titled Calibration of Sharp and Broad-Crested Rectangular Weirs.

A figure from our experiment titled Flow Through a Small Orifice.

Talking with the diverse group of scientists who take part in AGU is a great way to spend a week. A conference where thousands of people are discussing ecosystem ecology and climate change is a welcomed event.

A scientist-in-training experiments with our color-coded-by-size modeling media while Awoke talks with a visitor about our Emflume1 models.  
Akiyo, Anna and Meriam answer questions about the Em2.

We appreciate everyone who stopped by and our colleagues at the office in Carbondale who kept Little River running. We're looking forward to seeing many of you again in San Francisco at the end of 2015 for the summation of another fabulous year.

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.