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New wave testing facility

December 3, 2012 — 

Flood-prone Manitoba is now home to an innovative wave testing facility at the U of M that mimics flood conditions, allowing researchers to test how well new flood-fighting technology stands up to raging waters.

A team of civil engineering researchers at the University of Manitoba designed and built a 1,000 square-foot testing pool that brings to life the drama of floodwaters. The facility was designed in general accordance with the United States Army Corps of Engineers requirements for wave testing.

“As Manitobans, we face more than our fair share of flooding. This research facility will allow us to take a made-in-Manitoba flood-fighting product and test it using established protocols to ensure its safety, effectiveness and reliability, and to make any necessary improvements,” says civil engineering assistant professor and principal investigator Shawn Clark. “We will then be able to provide a more confident flood protection response in the future, knowing that the systems we use have been rigorously tested and have been designed to meet the needs of Manitobans.”

Clark, in collaboration with researcher James Blatz, along with undergraduate students Steven Harms and Kevin Sagan, will demonstrate how a new type of sandbag dike stands up to forceful waves.

“This University of Manitoba project is a great example of research and development resources working to solve a concrete problem,” says Mr. Rod Bruinooge, Member of Parliament for Winnipeg South. “That is why our government invests in university-industry partnerships: to create jobs, economic growth and support the development of new products and services that will enhance the quality of life for all Canadians.”

Partnering with the Winnipeg company ITW Syn-Tex Bag, the researchers are testing super-sized, four-foot-tall sandbags called Wave Breakers. They provide a less laborious alternative to traditional sandbags, which to date remain the most used technique despite their limitations.

Conventional sandbag dikes rely on the hard work of many volunteers and have questionable safety and reliability if their construction isn’t strictly monitored. Wave Breakers can go up faster, are installed by qualified personnel and are more resilient to wave action and fast-moving debris.

“This facility puts the University of Manitoba in a leading role in the testing of flood protection technology. Researchers will be able to test new products for stability, seepage, and wave resistance and in the process better protect Manitobans against floodwaters,” says Digvir Jayas, Distinguished Professor and vice-president (research and international) at the University of Manitoba.

This research is made possible by funding from the federal government agency Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) through the Engage program, which is designed to foster new research partnerships by giving Canada-based companies access to the expertise available at Canadian universities. Student researchers working on the project are both recipients of awards, including the NSERC undergraduate student research award and the University of Manitoba undergraduate research award.

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