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Ryerson Urban Water
Ryerson's five graduate students who went to Wetskills USA 2015 post in front of Ryerson Urban Water signs

Ryerson Urban Water sent 5 graduate students to Wetskills USA 2015. The innovative experiential learning program brought together students from various countries (Canada, USA, and The Netherlands) and various disciplines (graduate degrees in business, environmental education, engineering, and science) for a 2 week program on water sustainability. Students were placed in multi-disciplinary teams and addressed real water challenges facing the water sector. Students were provided with training and presented their water solutions in a poster session at the Milwaukee Water Summit. The program was hosted by University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, on 12-26 June 2015.

The 5 Ryerson students who participated in the Wetskills USA 2015 program were:

Salomeh Chegini (PhD candidate) Environmental and Applied Science Management Program, ITM, TRSM

Gregory Giberson (Masters in Spatial Analysis) Dept Geo Environ Studies, Arts

Nick Dimas (Masters in Applied Sciences) Environmental and Applied Science Management Program, Dept Chem Bio, FOS

Paul Proios (Masters in Applied Sciences) Environmental and Applied Science Management Program, Dept Chem Bio, FOS

Ferris Zahlan (Masters in Applied Sciences) Environmental and Applied Science Management Program, Dept Chem Bio, FOS

Paul Proios, Masters in Applied Sciences, Environmental and Applied Science Management Program, Dept Chem Bio, FOS

June 15, 2015

The Brain Hurricane day has been quite busy, we met with six water experts from various fields of expertise to ask them questions related to our water challenges. Meeting with the experts was definitely a highlight. They were all very insightful and interesting people. All the participants  here at Wetskills are very friendly and we have all bonded. This is a great program and has definitely been an enjoyable of experience so far. I would recommend doing the Wetskills challenge and would love to do it again if given the opportunity. Aside from the rain, Milwaukee is a great city and the cheese tastes amazing.

Two men and a woman wearing bright blue hard hats and smiling

Nick Dimas, Masters in Applied Sciences, Environmental and Applied Science Management Program, Dept Chem Bio, FOS

June 16, 2015  

Wetskills has been nothing short of amazing. The American students have been very welcoming and helpful to us. They are great hosts that I am now very proud to call my friends. The Dutch students have impressed me time after time with their extensive knowledge, command of the English language, and friendliness. Despite our various backgrounds and nationalities we all get along great and have all become friends

Some of the activities we have done recently include a tour of the Millercoors brewery as well as a tour of Milwaukee's main waste water treatment plant. In this plant we saw how sludge is transformed into class fertilizer that is not water soluble. A key innovation that can put a stop to much of the eutrophication issues brought on by fertilizer run off. We also saw how water is passed through the various steps of treatment from physical filtration to chemical sanitation in order to bring it back to clean levels to reintroduce it back into the lake. We also visited the beautiful state building where Wisconsin's legal issues are addressed and important bills are passed. We were introduced to our case studies as well and met many experts in freshwater ranging from academics to corporate business owners, all were very knowledgeable. 

My team comprises two Dutch students, Jessica and Koos, as well as one American student, Thomas. Our diverse backgrounds in both experience, as well as, academics is a wonderful combination, which integrates many aspects of science, community outreach, business management, and policy. Our project is known as the Hoogheemraadschap van Defland (group 4). We are trying to see how best to make entrepreneurs from the Green House area (an area in the Netherlands with thousands or green houses responsible for nation and even continent wide agriculture) aware of the problems with dumping their wastewater, riddled with fertilizers into drainage ditches. This case study deals with many multifaceted issues ranging from a lack of oversight (a small team of 7 policy enforcers for the Water Board controlling over 1700 entrepreneurs) and a crumbling infrastructure (limited silo space, no monitoring systems, leaky pipes). Our job is to help bring awareness to these entrepreneurs regarding the detrimental affects of their maladaptive practices. Our strategy involves an awareness campaign with three easy steps; community awareness, community involvement, and investing back into the community.

Salomeh Chegini (PhD candidate) Environmental and Applied Science Management Program, ITM, TRSM

June 18, 2015

So far my experience at Wetskills has been wonderful!
All the American and Dutch students are very friendly. Upon my arrival, I was impressed with everyone's friendliness. Erwin and Johan from Wetskills The Netherlands work together to organize the Wetskills here in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and they both are very helpful.

My case study is called KWR (first case) which is about the recovery of Rare Earth Metals from municipal waste water. We are three in our team: Elsbeth, Jim and myself. Elsbeth and Jim are both from Netherland and they are graduate students in Civil Engineering. Here is our team in the attached photo.

Finally I should say that it is an amazing experience and I am so happy to have the chance to repeat it and find new great friends. Furthermore, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Ryerson Urban Water Team for making this possible!

A man and two women smiling for the camera
A man and two women sitting around a table that has paperwork and electronic devices on it
Three women and a man in the stands at a baseball stadium

Paul Proios, Masters in Applied Sciences, Environmental and Applied Science Management Program, Dept Chem Bio, FOS

June 18, 2015

The past two days have been really busy, but I have some time now to write a little update. We have been working on our case studies at the UWM school of Freshwater Sciences. During the day we spend time doing work, but at night we have managed to squeeze in a little fun by going to karaoke, going to a Brewers game, and tailgating before the game. It was a great experience to watch a baseball game in America where it is more popular than in Canada!

Ferris Zahlan, Masters in Applied Sciences, Environmental and Applied Science Management Program, Dept Chem Bio, FOS

June 24

It has been a hectic week! The Milwaukee Water Summit 2015 conference has been very educational. We are surrounded by NASA scientists, policy makers, and leading CEOs of private water firms. So we are very humbled by their accomplishments and research. 

We all presented our Team Posters and our Pitches yesterday! So we are very relieved and happy!

Gregory Giberson, Masters in Spatial Analysis, Dept Geo Environ Studies, FArts

June 24

Over the past 12 days, there has been so much to do as part of the WetSkills USA 2015 Challenge. Coming into it, I wasn’t sure what to expect but since then I’ve so come around to how great an experience it is. We’ve developed new skills that will be useful in both an academic and a professional level – lots of teamwork-related learnings as well as an appreciation for unique styles and approaches on to how collaborate. The small groups that were constructed to tackle each case were composed typically of 1 Canadian, 1 American and 1-2 Dutch; typically what each brought to the table was also extremely diverse. For example, in my group alone, there was a physical geographer, a water policy and governance specialist, a civil engineer and a GIS specialist. This diversity of opinion and skills proved to be really complimentary; everyone was not afraid to ask questions. I think as a group we functioned ideally.

We did lots of social activities; there were lots of shenanigans of course, and we also did quite a bit of sight-seeing (the Art museum, the beach, even the laundromat), which all served to bond the Ryerson students with the others from University of Wisconsin and The Netherlands. My own team was even taken on a field trip out in rural Wisconsin to inform us further about our case. The hosts here in Milwaukee treated us really well; they provided a number of meals, as well as toured us around the city and lead our site seeing. They were great! And definitely deserve to be recognized for their efforts; plans are to put something together for a special thank you, but we haven’t sorted out the details yet.

In the end, it has been an incredible experience. Personally, I feel like I’ve known a lot of these people my whole life. Between the teambuilding exercises we’ve done, as well as the case study that we presented, close bonds have been created with some incredibly intelligent and dynamic people. I would recommend to anyone to participate in a future Wetskills Competition no matter where it is being held, in North America or abroad. I’ve definitely made friends from this special experience that will last for a long time! Thank you.

Nick Dimas

Nick Dimas, Masters in Applied Sciences, Environmental and Applied Science Management Program, Dept Chem Bio, FOS

June 26

We are heading back to Canada very soon, but since the Wetskills trip isn’t over and you love our updates, I decided to write one last closing statement to end off this incredible journey!

This incredible two week adventure has finally come to a close, and with it I have made lasting friendships and taken away some very valuable learning experiences. Looking back on my last two weeks here, some memories trigger the feeling of a long time ago, that in the order of many weeks or months ago, and some as if they were just yesterday. 

The memories that feel as though they were yesterday, were the ones from the beginning of this trip. On our team building workshops and meeting each other for the first time. Having our first drink at a bar, seems as if it happened this afternoon. Then, I think about memories such as our nights out at karaoke or at the baseball game, and cheering each other on the day of our practice presentations, then formal Pitch and Poster sessions and these seem like forever ago. It feels as if the people I met only 14 days ago have been close friends with whom I have experienced many memories for years. I believe that this is because we all bonded on such a deep level. 

Despite this being a team-based competition, all of us joined in to help one another teaching me valuable lessons of team work, support, and that friendship comes above winning. All students showed 100% dedication to their case studies and that showed me not only are we all committed to academics, but that the future of water-related studies is very bright with devoted, caring, and motivated individuals like us all around the world fighting for a better place and a cleaner environment.

This incredible journey may have to come to an end but it is never good bye. I will see my new friends again very soon. As we say our last good byes, give our last hugs, and do our 3-time kisses (Dutch style) I feel blessed and fortunate to have met all these people and experienced so many good times with them! Thank you for your support!

Ryerson Students travelling to University of Wisconsin.
Ryerson students team building with the Dutch and University of Wisconsin students.
Wetskills participants from Ryerson University visiting the Veolia wastewater treatment plant in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Wetskills students questioning water experts. Teams have received their water challenges.
Wetskills students developing their cases and practicing their pitches

Case 1: KWR Watercycle Research Institute: Metal recovery from sewage – transforming wastewater into business

Case 2: BersonUV: Resource recovery from a governance perspective: A bright future for UV in disinfection and the re-use of water, energy and nutrients?

Case 3: Cadens LLC: Maximizing power production of a multi-turbine micro-hydropower system

Case 4: Hoogheemraadschap van Delfland: Polluters be (a) ware! Raising water quality awareness among greenhouse entrepreneurs

Case 5: Insinkerator and Waternet: The Efficacy of Food Waste Disposers in the Netherlands

Integrating ‘Downtime’ into the Wetskills USA 2015 Program by Bonding at the Beach, Karaoke, and Summerfest
Ryerson Students at the Milwaukee Water Summit 2015
Students present their Pitches and Posters at the Milwaukee Water Summit 2015
Congratulations to Ryerson’s Ferris Zahlan and the Berson UV Team who won First Place at Wetskills USA 2015!
Closing of Wetskills USA 2015