Our IGCS Alumni Ameerah and Lishani are sharing her experience of participating in the first ever digital Summer School hosted by IGCS in October 2020.
– Digital event, October 05-16, 2020
IGCS Summer School on “Sustainable Smart Cities: Focus on Urban Mobility” was hosted by RWTH Aachen University, Germany. Applying for the event, I was eagerly waiting to attend the school in-person in Germany. I was interested in learning more about the different aspects of urban mobility in smart cities as my PhD research topic on “hybrid vehicles for smart cities” is dealing with a similar issue. I had a few questions before attending the summer school:
- What are the factors influencing the acceptance and implementation of smart and sustainable mobility?
- What would be the role of smart and green transport in sustainable cities?
- What would be the environmental impacts of mobility?
- What would be the future of mobility?
Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we received an e-mail from the host informing the change of school from in-person to a completely online mode and inquiring about my willingness to attend the school. I was eager to participate in the school anyway as the topic was interesting and relevant for my field of study. We then got an e-mail from the host institution well in advance regarding the start and details of the online summer school. Afterwards, I received a confirmation of participation and the schedule of the school.
It was my first experience of attending this kind of workshop online. After being selected to participate in IGCS’ first-ever digital Summer School, I attended online lectures, engaged in panel discussions and worked in a group project in an international environment. All the school activities were conducted in the online platform Zoom, and online Moodle was used to interact with the lecturers and participants from different countries.
In the end, we all had to present our findings from the group project. There were five groups, each containing six members. Each group were presenting on a topic on the last day of Summer School. Teams for the workgroup were well distributed; members of the group were from both Indian and from German institutes and from various field of expertise. Our group topic for the project was well constructed by the host team. I was afraid that my internet connection would not hold. Still, everything was fine on the day, and our group successfully completed our presentation. Our presentation was on the topic “Environmental Impacts on Mobility”, and we mainly focused on:
- Evolution and challenges of different modes of transportation
- Share of transport on the total emissions of greenhouse gases
- Environmental impacts due to dominant/conventional modes of transportation
- Health impacts due to predominant/conventional modes of transportation
- Environmental and Health impacts due to alternate/future means of transportation
- Analyzing the convenience of the alternative means of transport in the contexts of developed and developing countries
After completing the school, I got many of my questions answered, and there are major inputs that I have taken away from the school for my research:
- I have learnt more about the environmental aspects of mobility
- Recent trends and advancements in the automobile industry (Ford) towards sustainable mobility
- Working on our project group with friends from different disciplines increased my understanding of different aspects of engineering as well as environmental, geographical and sociological topics
- With other projects, I have learned more about the public-private partnership in the mobility sector
The entire summer school was well organized, and fortunately, there were no problems with internet connectivity in my case. During the online summer school, I liked all the activities. In particular, I was mostly involved in our workgroups as it helped my research, and I got valuable inputs from my team members. The weekend activity task was very interesting, and it was a great opportunity to explore my personal mobility and priorities.
I networked with participants and professors in this online school too. I became friends with many of the participants, even though we only met online. Next to that, I got much help and guidance from our group mentor Dr Daniel Rosado related to environmental aspects on mobility.
I would recommend the following suggestions for the participants who are applying for the upcoming (online) Summer- and Winter Schools
- Be excited to work with interdisciplinary workgroups
- You will attend lectures from top universities in Germany, IIT Madras and leading global Industry professionals
- Have a stable online connection and a web camera (for online schools)
Rahul G. Rajkarnikar, CAU Kiel
My name is Rahul. I am from Kathmandu, Nepal. I am a Master’s student in Environmental Management at CAU Kiel, and I was a participant for the IGCS Winter School 2020 at IIT Madras. I had spent two weeks in Chennai traveling, learning, exploring new ideas, and meeting incredibly talented people. This is the story of my experience.
The lecture series integrated multidisciplinary views of urbanization and land questions to define sustainability both within the city premises and its periphery. It stressed the importance of addressing the rapidly blurring boundaries between cities, small towns, and rural areas, presenting a new terminology called periurbanisation.
The Winter School took me from Chennai’s lively streets to the serenity of Ennore, where the kind hearts of the locals keep the region warm. I was introduced to the South Indian architecture’s greatness, the taste of their legendary cuisine, and the marvels of the landscape it holds. There is a unique sense of wonder to witness sunrises from the ocean, as if gods underneath were bestowing us their gifts every morning.
IGCS showed me that the pressing environmental issues are hidden in plain sight, behind what we perceive as ‘every-day normalcy.’
The Winter School started with an important question: “Who gets to define what is sustainability?”
During the school, Dr. Chella notably stated that the term ‘Sustainable Development’ is not a fact, but rather a value. And it is imperative to recognize how communities define their value. Therein lies the challenge with the concept. Sustainability is more opinionated than quantifiable. Science alone cannot define it.
And, this, in turn, leads us to more questions-
“What are we ought to do then?”
“Is sustainability even possible?”
“Should our current lifestyle compromise life in the future?” or,
“Should we turn a blind eye to the needs of the current generation for the sake of the future?”
“How do we prioritize someone’s need over another?”
For me, this was a significant shift in perception from a belief in the existing theories and frameworks to lead the sustainability movement to a grounded reality. Science tends to take a back seat in the real world. Environment is a delicate machine whose routine operations are easily affected by external and often social factors.
Hence, perhaps, the most important question to solve sustainability issues could be simplified‒
“Why can’t we just get along?”
The school introduced us to technological tools and social-scientific frameworks that allowed us to assess the ongoing environmental conflicts and predict future risks in Chennai.
Every working day was essentially categorized into two segments. The first half was for the interdisciplinary lectures on sustainability delivered by environmental specialists from both Indian and German institutes. The latter half was then dedicated to “Action learning’ workshops that focused on project development based on theoretical learning from the sessions earlier. For this purpose, participants were divided into groups containing at least 5 members. At the end of the school, each group was required to present their respective projects’ findings.
The seminars’ education was highly encouraging, primarily through testimonies of individuals who have dedicated their lives to environmental causes. Their experiences were thought-provoking and added new dimensions of possible future challenges to consider in this field.
The seminars’ key highlights made me wary of our unpredictable and complex relationship with the environment. Conventional regulation measures have often led to unprecedented consequences. I believe this case reinforces Yuval Noah Harari’s quote from his book ‘21 Lessons for the 21st Century:’
“Humans were always far better at inventing tools than using them wisely.”
Another crucial takeaway point from the school was the importance of grassroots level participation in any environmental movement. There needs to be a great deal of trust between different sustainability actors at various levels to ensure that environmental policies have their desired outcome.
There is excellent potential to incentivize people with opportunities to improve their own living standards that also benefit the environment. Hence, I would like to continue in this direction by trying to find ways that answer the question:
“How do we institutionalize the local responsibility movement so that it encompasses a larger section of the polarized community?”
The overall Winter School experience was incredible and overwhelmingly unique. I was exposed to a completely different world. There is simply something majestic about sharing a glance with a stranger on the streets, recognizing that this will be our only interaction, possibly in this lifetime. Yet, in those brief moments, they told me a story about their life in this unique part of the world.
I came to Chennai alone. But I left making a lot of friends and memories worth a lifetime.
New Summer School dates: 05.10.2020 – 16.10.2020
The organizers of the IGCS Summer School 2020 have been closely observing the dynamic development in regards to the Corona virus SARS-CoV-2 and the safety precuations and travel restrictions that have come along with it.
IGCS has thus made the decision to conduct the summer school into an eco- and pandemic-friendly online format. The selected candidates will meet and collaborate virtually between October 5 – 16, 2020.
The organizers look forward to e-meet the interested and excellent students from India and Germany!
The application deadline ended on the 14th of June.
Growing through diversity
The IGCS Summer School on Smart Grids – Electricity Networks as the Backbone of a Carbon Neutral Society was conducted on the campus of the Technische Universität Dresden which is located in the beautifully reconstructed old town of Dresden, Germany. There were students from all backgrounds of academia, be it electrical or mechanical engineering or architecture or economics or environmental science, and I, Muskaan Kochar, consider myself privileged to be a part of them. In total, we were 30 students who were brought together for a span of twelve days and I’m certain we will remain connected always.
From Energy Policy to Green Energy Technology Startups
The summer school was broadly divided into two parts, the lectures, and the project work. Every morning after lectures we would either head out for technical excursions or split into groups to work on our projects. I was awestruck by the facilities at Highvolt, Innovation power plant, and 50 Hertz. The visit to the Volkswagen manufacture was candy for the mechanical engineers. The 13 lectures covered a broad spectrum of topics like concepts of electrical energy networks,stakeholder interaction, rural electrification, sector coupling, grid components, and power grids under the aspects of economy, ecology, and regulation. Not only did they provide us with technical knowledge but also about making the technology sustainable and urged us to think from an economic perspective and understand the steps involved in distributing and transmitting the generated energy. The lectures along with the excursions facilitated our projects and enhanced our knowledge.
Personally, I liked the lectures by Professor Praktiknjo and Mr. Manjunath Ramesh the most. The former taught us about three goals of energy policy and also conducted a practical simulation game to give us hands-on experience. The latter shared with us the concept of his startup, Nuventura GmbH, and his plans for the future. These lectures taught us how to think beyond building technology. They provoked us to think about their implementation and how to make it practical.
For the projects, we were given broad project headings which provided us with the flexibility to work creatively in our desired direction and also incorporate the skills of the technically diverse team members. The ideas of all the teams were unconventional and exercised one’s grey matter. The professors guided us when we were in doubt, reviewed our work at multiple stages and left us with intriguing questions about our model. This made the process extremely wholesome. My team worked on the topic of e-mobility where we viewed an electric vehicle (EV) as a consumer or prosumer. To begin with, we challenged the given topic by comparing the carbon emissions of EVs and conventional vehicles. On becoming certain about the advantages associated with using EVs we studied the market scenarios in developed, like Germany, and developing, like India, countries and built a model that would incentivise individuals to invest in EVs. The main challenge faced was the availability of charging platforms. This could be overcome by a transaction platform for peer to peer trading or feed-in tariff. This would meet the goal of our topic as well. To strengthen it further we carried out a cost-benefit analysis and were amazed by the results for an EV. There is a lot of scope for development in this field. There are teams who wish to continue building their models even after the school is over.
I firmly believe that the summer school was a huge success. This was possible only because of the emphasis put on the interaction between people of varied backgrounds, not only academically but also culturally and not only amongst the students but also with the hosts, the professors, and industrialists. On our very first evening in Dresden, we gathered for the opening dinner post which the hosts encouraged us to enjoy the city carnival. The students from German universities took this as an opportunity to showcase their culture and familiarise the Indian students with their history. The next day, there was a hike to the Saxon Switzerland national park. The air; so pure and the sight; so wonderful. It brought everyone together. After this, the next ten days just flew by. On the next Saturday, we visited the small city of Wittenberg and Ferropolis, also called the city of iron. On Sunday, a spontaneous city tour was organised and it added on to the fond memories we all had made. And finally, for our closing dinner, we were all invited to a brewery. A visit to Germany is incomplete if doesn’t visit one, right? Our hearts filled with gratitude for everyone who made the IGCS summer school possible as we all parted ways, to see the beautiful country and to implement what we’ve learnt.
What I will take home
The summer school had more to offer than visible to the eye. All the social and cultural activities molded us as a person. The team building activities, taking responsibility and shouldering them well, working in constrained time and most importantly communicating added on to the academic learning. I also learned how to view a problem from different perspectives. Now I always ask myself, how would an economist view it? How will an environmentalist view it? How can I communicate my findings better and make it more accessible and understandable by everyone? I would strongly encourage applying for a Winter- or Summer School of IGCS. Another option to join IGCS is by applying for a research stay and an associated scholarship.
Reporter: Muskaan Kochar, IGCS student assistant and participant at the IGCS Summer School 2019
Broadening horizons at the 2019 IGCS Winter School
Hannah was one of the 30 students who was selected to participate in the IGCS Winter School 2019 in Chennai. With this report she gives an insight into the school’s topics and activities as well as a few personal impressions:
I had the great opportunity to participate in the IGCS Winter School Sustainable Waste Management: Municipal Solid Waste and E-waste. The Winter School took place on the IIT Madras campus, a fantastic green space in the heart of Chennai, where we lived and worked for two weeks. Half of the participants were Indian students and the other half was from German Universities. We had various educational backgrounds: besides students from environmental sciences, there were also social and economic sciences, mechanical as well as electrical engineers and other fields represented. This excellent constellation allowed us participants the chance to an intercultural exchange and professional development.
High degree of interaction during lectures and group work
IGCS Winter School gave me an extraordinary possibility to explore new aspects of the waste management system and to overthink a lot our treatment with resources. The classes were divided into two parts: there were a total of 17 lectures which covered various aspects of solid waste management and e-waste in Chennai, India, Germany and from a global point of view. I find waste management systems so relevant that I am thinking about doing my master thesis in that area and within IGCS.
I personally enjoyed the discussions about social aspects of waste management the most. The topic of the lecture was Sociology and Waste Management by Dr. S. Chella Rajan. For me, it is one of the most relevant parts, when we speak about sustainability and – in our case – waste treatment and circular economy. We learned a lot with and from each other in the discussions after lectures and even during lunch breaks. We all felt the high relevance of the topic and the necessity to speak about the different topics and aspects of solid waste management such as social, technological aspects as well as organisation of the waste management system from the governmental side. Some of the lectures were especially enlightening and facilitating a lively discussion way past the lectures. Another very interesting class was given by Prof. K. Kuchta about Recycling of E-waste.
The second part was project work. We expressed our research interests and were divided into six groups accordingly. I personally enjoyed a lot to have several days reserved for our project work. We were able to dive deep into the topic, understand it, work on it and try to identify problems as well as recommendations. Our three supervisors from IIT Madras supervised us and helped us grow together as one team.
I was in a group to analyse the Coastal Solid Waste Management system and to make suggestions for improvement. With support from our supervisors, we went into the city and conducted a survey in different zones of the city, like commercial and residential areas sorting the results after income groups. Furthermore, we compared the type of waste that is collected in the municipal waste bins and waste that we found along the beach. By doing the segregation we found out that the waste from middle compared to high income households is very different, e.g. regarding to the relative amount of e-waste that people produce. By comparing the completely different looking pie charts of the waste from the beach and the waste from the residential area we assumed that waste at the beach must have another origin. To give an example, the beach waste contained a high amount of footwear which we did not find in other types of waste.
The surveys as well as the waste segregation were great team events. While doing the research we had many opportunities to learn about each other’s cultural backgrounds and intercultural collaboration. I enjoyed a lot working with in this intercultural and interdisciplinarygroup and it enriched our group a lot that we had various professional backgrounds. One of the main problems of Chennai’s waste management system is the segregation. The majority of the interviewed people told us, that they are willing to segregate the waste, if there would be a proper municipal segregation system.
Beyond the classroom
All the organizers, supervisor and lectures showed a huge interest to make us see and understand the place and the country where they are living, their culture and the topic they are working on. Apart from teaching a roundtrip in Chennai and a two-day trip to Mahabalipuram and Pondicherry was organized. Both were great possibilities for the whole group to get to know each other and to get to know the beautiful south-eastern Indian countryside, cities, historical and cultural sights. Another rather unintentional cultural highlight was the traffic in Chennai and the surrounding area. During our field trips we were often stuck in traffic. It made me aware how enormous not only Chennai but also many other Indian cities are.
One evening, one of the participants organised a badminton tournament which was a lot of fun for all of us. Apart of that, we spend a lot of time in the Campus juice bar, walking around on the campus and tasting India’s culinary diversity which was one of my cultural highlights. The food was usually vegetarian which seems to be common standard in India or at least on the campus in Chennai. Relating to a topic about waste management it was very interesting to notice that difference in the type of food people consume between Germany and India.
Many of the participants from German universities used the opportunity of the Winter School to explore India after the program. India is a great place to learn how to surf at Tamil Nadus coast, to do hiking in the Himalaya, to do island-hopping on the Andaman-islands, to go further south to Sri Lanka, to see Taj Mahal, Kerala and/or Goa, to relax at one of India’s beautiful beaches and I am quite sure there are missing various things to do and to see on my list.
What I take home from IGCS
Because of the interdisciplinary group at the IGCS Winter School we considered the topic of solid waste management from different angles. As an engineer I realized once again, that technology is only one vehicle to implement a well-working system for solid waste management. There are also aspects to be considered such as living standards or the historical growth of a city. If we want to achieve change, we must bear these aspects in mind, too.
Culturally speaking, I enjoyed it very much to get to know the various personalities and cultural backgrounds of the participantse, to find out about the differences of people from different countries, to sing, to dance and to laugh during our field trips. In my opinion there were many brilliant people amongst the participants regarding their knowledge on waste management but also regarding their skill to help people coming out of their shell.
In conclusion, I would strongly recommend applying for a Winter- or Summer School of IGCS. Another option to join IGCS is by applying for a research stay and an associated scholarship. The Winter School helped me to focus on sustainable aspects for two weeks and learn new aspects. During the school I started to write down many inspiring thoughts on post-it notes. These notes I took back to Germany to contemplate them further at home. I have started this process and look forward to the results
I had the great opportunity to participate in the IGCS Winter School Sustainable Waste Management: Municipal Solid Waste and E-waste in Chennai India in February and March 2019. The Winter School took place on the IIT Madras campus, a fantastic green space in the heart of Chennai, where we lived and worked for two weeks. Half of the participants were Indian students and the other half was from German Universities. We had various educational backgrounds: besides students from environmental sciences, there were also social and economic sciences, mechanical as well as electrical engineers and other fields represented. This excellent constellation allowed us participants the chance to an intercultural exchange and professional development.
IGCS students Soumita Banerjee and Sujay Bandyopadhyay published a short summary of this year’s summer school on coastal and river hazards & management strategies which took place in the second half of July 2018. It is an easy read, contains many keynotes on the topic and provides some insights into IGCS activities. The article was published December 17 2018 on EOS, Earth & Space Science News. Follow this link to read the full article.
Source: Malin Praktiknjo, 2018; Frank-Andreas Weber, 2018; Jorien Van der Wal, 2018.
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Deltas, Floodplains, and Harbours as Geo-Bio-Archives: Human-Environment Interactions in Western Anatolia
July 16, 2018 | RWTH Aachen University
As part of the IGCS Summer School 2018 “Coastal and River Hazards & Management strategies”, we invite you to a public lecture by Prof Dr Helmut Brückner on July 16, 2018, at 18:00 hrs. The lecture will take place in the Generali-Saal of the SuperC (6th floor, Templargraben 57, Aachen) at RWTH Aachen University.
In Western Anatolia, the human footprint on the ecosystems, especially in Greek and Roman times, resulted in massive landscape changes. This holds particularly true for the ancient harbour cities of Ephesus, Miletus and Elaia. It will be demonstrated how the rise and fall of these settlements were closely connected with the life cycle of their harbours, which in turn was strongly dependent on the delta growth of the rivers Kaystros, Maiandros and Kaikos respectively.
Prof Brückner holds the Chair in Geomorphology at the University of Cologne. He studied Geography and Mathematics at the University of Düsseldorf. After his PhD and habilitation he lectured as a professor in Passau and Marburg; in 2010 he followed the call to Cologne. His research is focussed on aspects of coastal geomorphology, geoarchaeology and geochronology; regional foci are the Mediterranean countries, the Middle East, Chile, South and Southeast Asia. He is a member of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina.