Save the World, Study STEM: Recovering from Catastrophe

In this edition of our Save the World, Study STEM series, we examine the prominent role that the STEM fields play in the recovery from and prevention of catastrophe. War, natural disaster, famine, disease… unfortunately these catastrophic events are all a part of being human. From the nuts and bolts of rebuilding a community to building peace in war-torn areas, STEM provides many tools that help humanity return to their daily lives.

Yet the contributions of STEM during catastrophic events go beyond the obvious, as many people are now taking new and innovative approaches to the recovery from these events. Fire and rescue workers in Australia are using tablet technology to address natural disasters, experts in design tools to help Syrians gain access to quality information, and professionals are using mathematics to coordinate disaster recovery activities.

Tackling Natural Disaster with Tablet Technology

Brockman_4_mine_brushfire,_2013Response time during natural disasters is of critical importance. According to a recent article in the Brisbane Times, Queensland Fire and Rescue Services is now trying something new to help cut down on response time: tablet technology. Instead of using a paper system, these responders will now be able to upload images and data of the damage caused by natural disasters instantaneously. This technology will allow governmental entities to get the most up-to-date information far quicker than the old system allows, making it easier for people to receive the help they need. Read more. 

Design Thinking in Syria

347px-Golan171Experts in design thinking are now applying their knowledge to help localize the peace-building process in Syria through localized communication networks. According to a recent story that aired on The Takeaway, this process is led by someone with “the mind of a designer and the heart and dedication of a great humanitarian.” This story has all the elements of innovation and applies seemingly unrelated concepts to the betterment of this war-torn community. Listen to the full story. 

Mathematics for Disaster Recovery

800px-Mathematics_concept_collageMathematics entered the equation of disaster recovery in 2005 when professionals in China proposed a mathematical approach “to express diverse entities in information and disaster recovery system such as applications, facilities, resources, sub disaster recovery plans, budget, etc.” This equation really takes everything into account and shows how mathematics can have humanitarian aims. Read paper*.

The Save the World, Study STEM series is aimed at shedding light on the heart and soul that guide people in their STEM-related pursuits and the contributions that the STEM fields make in bettering our world.

*Access to this paper requires access to IEEE Explore.

Where Are They Now: Cool Jobs Alum Tim Marshall

Tim Marshall, Civil Engineer and Meteorologist

When disaster strikes, our cool jobs alumni are there. Tim Marshall, Civil Engineer and Meteorologist, has been busy responding to the devastating tornado in Moore, Oklahoma. Somber events like this one leave an abundance of damage in their wake, and Marshall gets called in to assess that damage—“mother nature’s fingerprint,” he calls it.

Marshall recently spoke to NPR’s Melissa Block to discuss his assessment of the structural damage in Moore, Oklahoma. In his interview with  NPR he drew attention to the positive changes in the structures of Moore following the devastating tornadoes in 1999 as well as the concerning oversights in those structures. He also discussed how buildings leave evidence of how they failed to withstand large tornadoes, even when these structures are no longer standing. “Even a house that is no longer there provides ample evidence for us,” he explained. Something as small as a nail can leave a mark, and that tiny mark can explain how an entire wall had failed.

MarshallMarshall is no stranger to the wrath of tornadoes. During his Cool Jobs interview he spoke of how a tornado he personally experienced as a child amplified his natural curiosity toward weather.  “I really didn’t know what this thing was that came out of the sky and did all of this damage, and I got very interested in the damage itself” he explained. Marshall now assesses the damage caused by major natural disasters in the hopes that he can help communities avoid fatal flaws in building construction.

Check out his full NPR interview, or find out more about Tim Marshall’s journey to his cool job in his original Cool Jobs interview.