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HR Wallingford Summer School - Harriet's experience

Posted: August 19 2019

The Summer school, what an amazing few days. I arrived at the hotel the night before curious as to what we had in store over the next week.  I’d been told previously by the second years that the summer school is one of the best parts of the programme – no pressure HR Wallingford.

The first day of the summer school started with an introduction to HR Wallingford and a health and safety briefing.  We then had a talk about some of the types of flood defence products which are available and how they are tested.  This lead straight into the deep end of being tasked to design, build and test our very own flood product!  We were split off into two teams, there was always going to be rivalry created there…

Given a range of materials and tools there was only a few hours to design and build our two flood products. Thinking about what we had learnt from university and from the talk earlier on that day we set off with a positive mindset that our flood product would be 100% effective, (in hindsight this was ambitious).

The next day we tested our (in our minds) perfect flood products.  It was a bit of a shock when we came into the testing hall and there was 1m deep water on the wrong side of our defence…  However, we still did the testing and concluded that the leakage of our product was quite high from flood products on the market currently.  We did however learn that water will get in through anything, even with the smallest of gaps.  This made me think about how easily a home could be flooded and how possible it could be.

Another part of our summer school involved working out the flow rate of water over a weir.  This was a large model at HR Wallingford and was very impressive to see.  Equally it was as fun trying to work out the flow rate from an equation we had been given.  We had to collect the data ourselves for the water depths and velocities up and downstream using the hydrological equipment provided. 

The week was finished off with testing two coastal defence structures with varying wave heights measuring the overtopping of both, which included wearing waders in the waist height water – a first for me.  It’s definitely harder than it looks to walk through flood water - that’s an important reflection.

Integrated into all of this was many lectures from the HR Wallingford staff and also lecturers on varying topics related to flood and coastal risk management (FCRM – bit less of a mouthful) from modelling of waves and floods to ways to develop towards chartered engineer status.  All in all, the HR Wallingford summer school was one of the highlights of my course so far!  Extremely enjoyable to put our learning into practice.