After a successful team-building event, the Wetskills Water Challenge Boston kicked off on June 13 with the BrainHurricane event.

Professor Joan Fitzgerald of Northeastern University and former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis opened the BrainHurricane with an inspiring talk about the need to cooperate internationally on water-related problems. Julie Wormser (Boston Harbor Now) gave a good impression on the current and future water challenges Boston faces related to high tide and climate change.

Problem solving

A select group of American and Dutch participants will work in mixed teams on four water-related cases set around Boston in a two-week program.

They are challenged by US and Dutch businesses to find creative and original solutions for problems, such as flooding risk due to climate change; create green urban infrastructure; and develop a resilient Boston. The participants will work on their solutions for two weeks and then present their solutions for their case at the Workshop Boston’s “Urban Metabolism’” – What Keeps the City Alive and Growing on Thursday, June 23.

An American-Dutch jury will be present and will select the winning team, based on the most out-of-the-box and practical concept.

Water challenges in Boston

The aim of the BrainHurricane event is to collect input from experts for case studies of the teams. Renowned experts in the industry supported each team with their knowledge and expertise. This is with some relevant presentations. Ms. Karen Frost (Water Council) gave the students a demonstration of the Water Portal, which the students can use during the Wetskills USA 2016 to gather information for their cases.

Professors Michael Dukakis and Joan Fitzgerald opened the Wetskills on behalf of Northeastern University, School of Public Policy & Urban Affairs, while Julie Wormser (Boston Harbor Now) explained the major water challenges for Boston as a city between the ocean and rivers, and the urgency to take action now to tackle the future impacts of climate change. Finally, the Wetskills program and its achievements were explained by Johan Oost (Wetskills Foundation).

Speed dates with professionals

The second part of the morning was a speed-date session with six professionals from various organizations. They helped each team with information and input. The experts were transdisciplinary with a relevant background for the cases: a.o. Julie Wormser (Boston Harbor Now), Mia Goldwasser (City of Boston), Karen Frost (Milwaukee Water Council), Kathleen Baskin (Massachusetts Department of Energy and Environment), Charlie Jewel (Boston Water and Sewer Commission) and Joan Fitzgerald (Northeastern University).

Water-related cases

In this Wetskills edition, the study cases are about climate proofing Boston’s Seaport district, creating a business case for stormwater harvesting, city governance and resilience, and flood safety of the Federal Reserve Bank office. Engineering firm ARCADIS USA, Water Authority Delfland, Deltares USA & the Federal Reserve Bank Boston and KWR Watercycle Research Institute, provided and formulated the cases.

Wetskills USA 2016

This Wetskills runs June 12-23. It is the 20th edition overall and the second edition in United States. In a two-week program in Boston, young professionals and students in the American and Dutch water industry will compete to develop an innovative concept for four case studies to create solutions for water issues in a changing world.

About Wetskills

Wetskills was first organised in 2010 and became an independent foundation in 2015.  It uses an innovative approach of experimental learning and international networking for students and young professionals with different professional backgrounds.

The challenges take place worldwide, usually during international water related events. The challenges that participants work on are real life cases from companies and (governmental) organisations. Their challenge is to think out of the box and develop realistic solutions.

Since 2010, 19 Wetskills events have been organized worldwide in 14 countries. About 400 students and 100 universities and organizations were involved.