A serious game with a side of fun: segways, swimming and singing on the south coast

This year’s Challenge Week would be my last. It was also the final year that our ReNUWIt counterparts from across the Atlantic would be joining us. This year we had the pleasure of showing 5 wonderful students – Scott, Yalin, Jon, Chelsea and Kim – the delights of Torquay.

We arrived at noon on Sunday to a beautiful setting – a grand hotel on the seafront – and whilst we awaited the arrival of the rest of the STREAMers, we found ourselves a big screen to watch Murray win the Wimbledon Men’s Final. 

After an evening spent watching the Euro 2016 final taking place across the Channel in France, the following morning the challenge was revealed. 

We would be playing a ‘serious game’: an online simulation on water distribution systems. We were allocated a team – split up to work with members of other cohorts from different universities and sponsors – and the first task was to familiarise ourselves with a simplified version of the interface. 


We had to remedy a failing water distribution network: replacing, upgrading, downsizing and closing off pipes to minimise cost, leakage and water age (and therefore, maximising water quality) without compromising the pressure in the network and ensuring all of the nodes had a supply. 


This wouldn’t be a simple task and trial and error would not suffice. The task had 15 to the power of 316 possible solutions. 


A number larger than the number of hydrogen atoms in the world (10^80); stars in the universe (10^23); or cells in the human body (10^14).

Tuesday afternoon included a scheduled break from the challenge. As we collected our packed lunches and boarded the bus to Haldon Forest we speculated over what the activity would be. A rumour had spread it might be Go Ape so there were one or two slightly disappointed faces when we found out we wouldn’t be swinging through the tree tops. 


The group split into two teams for training and games for the segway activity. As my group would be going second we had a little free time so we hired some mountain bikes and went to explore a couple of trails. 



Wednesday was the annual STREAM one day conference. The turnout from our industrial partners was probably one of the best ever and the STREAMers no doubt appreciated the feedback and insight they provided during the poster sessions (cohort 5-7) and presentations (cohort 4). 


I was immensely proud of the progress my cohort has achieved in the past 3-4 years, with every single one of them giving a brilliant overview that was clearly explained and confidently presented. 


Shenan was quickest off the mark to solve the conundrum driving my project and was overjoyed to win a chocolate bar for doing so…


But real credit should go to Sam (Sheffield Uni/Scottish Water) – who was judged by Steve Kay at Anglian to be the best project: due to his engagement with stakeholders (namely the environment agency) and clear presentation of his topic. 


Robert (Cohort 5, Newcastle Uni/Scottish Water) won the prize for best poster – and very well deserved too – for a poster that was stylish, simple and solid in its message. 


The week concluded with a delicious dinner at the restaurant attached to the Living Coasts enclosure…


…after which, we all let our hair down after working hard on the challenge – through several technical glitches  – with a trip to a karaoke bar.


Earlier in the week, Scott and I had revealed our plans for the STREAM attendance at ReNUWIt’s industrial advisory board (IAB) meeting in Colorado in September. 

We had put quite a bit of effort into planning, costing and writing a proposal for a mini conference, workshop and team-building activities to support the IAB event…and we found out this week that our proposal had been accepted. 


There was an overwhelming interest from STREAMers to participate. The application for the opportunity  will be circulated ASAP so that David Werner, who secured the collaborative funding back in 2013, can select the successful handful that will be able to go. Keep your eyes peeled! 

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One thought on “A serious game with a side of fun: segways, swimming and singing on the south coast

  1. Pingback: Challenge Week 2016: No sand for serious sandcastles - Irons and the Data

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