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Stormwater Footprint Calculator

Joshua Barbour

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Back in 2011, I collaborated with a group of civil engineering, computer science, and communication students under the direction of Drs. Emily Zechman of Civil Engineering and Alex Sprintson of Computer Science to develop a game to teach individuals with disparate expertise about stormwater issues and to create a tool to test different metrics for communicating civil engineering concepts.

Dr. Emily Zechman’s description of the project follows:

Although watershed management typically utilizes large infrastructure projects to control stormwater runoff, the choices of residents and landowners at the lot-level can also impact hydrologic sustainability. A decentralized management approach could more naturally restore flow regimes and result in significant, long-term cost savings. This research develops a new stormwater footprint game that can be used for educating about the impact of personal decisions on hydrologic sustainability and increase stormwater awareness. The game utilizes a stormwater sustainability metric, the Hydrologic Footprint Residence (HFR), to communicate the impact of development decisions. Students and professors from the Departments of Civil Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Communication collaborated to develop the gaming system, to field an experiment to test the game, and to make the game available to students across campus through undergraduate and graduate courses.

Our work demonstrated that completing the quiz improved individual’s knowledge about stormwater management and changed attitudes. Game play made participants more likely to take action to support local sustainable practices. Our experiment also demonstrated that the HFR–our stormwater footprint–worked better than peak flow--an orthodox civil engineering metric--for communicating the effects of stormwater.

The wonderful student team, Marcio Giacomoni, Tommi Jo Scott, Alyssa Politte, Jenna Kromann, Sean Saathoff, and Sam Collard, won an honorable mention in Washington, DC at the EPA student design competition for sustainability.

Take the quiz here: http://people.tamu.edu/~barbour/HFRQ/Quiz/HFR.swf