The Institute for Management and Innovation’s (IMI) MScSM program churns out champions of sustainability, award-winning students, and just all around engaged and enlightened global citizens
For the last two consecutive years, students in IMI’s Master of Science in Sustainability Management (MScSM) program placed first in Rain it In, a competition that enables teams made up of college and university students to put forward their innovative solutions for addressing climate change-induced flooding.
Showers cause flooding, but also help Spring flowers to sprout. Similarly, these students sow some seeds of inspiration and get great ideas flowing by talking about their experience participating in the competition and being in the MScSM program on the April edition of the VIEW to the U podcast. The episode features the Curb the Rain team, who placed first in the competition in 2021, and includes Borys Brodziuk, Nandaraye Choi, Tina Elliott, and Lauren O’Malley. As part of their winning proposal, the team suggests existing curb infrastructure be redesigned with permeable concrete that would withstand some of the effects of climate change and reduce its impacts.
“What we really wanted to do for the Rain it In competition, was identify a way to prevent flooding on roads that cause a lot of outstanding damage to municipalities’ resident system, and target areas where we could make a big impact for people specifically,” says Elliott.
“Our idea was to introduce a curbside, low-impact development because we think there's a great opportunity in that specific application – to use porous or impermeable concrete in order to increase the capacity of storm-water systems.”
The team said that currently many storm-water systems in municipalities are not equipped or are insufficient in terms of capacity for dealing with intense rain fall events. By introducing this updated material, it can help reduce the overflow of storm water and mitigate flooding. They found out about the impermeable concrete through a video and that sparked their idea. To further illustrate their challenge, O’Malley uses the analogy that if you were in a burning building and there is only one exit, there is inevitably a backlog of people trying to get out, similar to the water trying to find an escape route instead of pooling in the streets.
And, along with the potential for harm to residents physically when there is overflow from rain water, flooding puts significant financial strain on municipalities, says Brodziuk.
“The Insurance Bureau of Canada estimated the cost was nearly $1 billion in total for the Toronto flood in 2013, which was the most expensive natural disaster in Ontario,” he says.
“Our team thought there's a lot that can be done to prevent the damage, the delay, and the destruction that the flooding costs for municipalities, individuals, like homeowners, as well as for small business owners.”
Not only did the Curb the Rain team place first in Rain in In, but they were also accepted into the Leap Startup League program presented by ICUBE UTM and Sheridan EDGE, and were finalists in the Early Stage Finalists category among four other start-ups. They also successfully won the Sauga Pitch and Showcase presented by ICUBE UTM, Sheridan EDGE, and Mississauga Business Enterprise Centre (MBEC) in December 2021.
In addition, they were accepted into the Foresight Canada Clean Tech Acceleration Program in January 2022.
The team, who have various backgrounds in their undergraduate degrees ranging from natural and life sciences to industrial engineering and economics, were drawn to the MScSM program for some of the real-world applications they could pursue over the course of their studies.
“I feel like we are all really systems thinkers and problem solvers, and that's why we're very much interested in our program and in topics related to climate change,” says Choi.
“We want to tackle these issues, we want to find a solution, and having that interdisciplinary perspective is very beneficial for our own progress.”
O’Malley adds that the MScSM program shifted her perspective and, as contemporary sustainability ambassadors, helped define their own place in the current situation of the looming climate crisis.
“We have a responsibility to make these kinds of changes and come up with these innovative solutions,” says O’Malley.
“It is a lot of responsibility, but it's also very exciting.”
After the Curb the Rain team’s success in 2021, UTM MScSM students placed first in the Rain it In competition again in 2022: Team Rainbow, which includes MScSM students Victoria Boyd, Nya Lazarus-Munnick Natalie Biringer, Kaitlyn D’Lima, IMI Master of Urban Innovation student Jananee Savuntharanathan, along with UofT Architecture student Dorottya Kiss, were recognized for their Stormwater Management Solution that included bioretention and permeable pavement for the Town of Ajax.