ReNUWIt Students Co-Create Urban Water Challenge with Ingenuity Lab

Achievement date: 

Attracting 1,000 visitors, an urban water challenge at the Lawrence Hall of Science was co-designed by students from Re-Inventing the Nation’s Urban Water Infrastructure (ReNUWIt), an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center headquartered at Stanford University. The students and the museum’s Ingenuity Lab developed the activity to teach young designers the challenges of managing a city’s water.


The young visitors learned about stormwater, green urban design, and engineering through the hands-on exhibit. Feedback was resoundingly positive, and the materials and activity have already been adapted for use by ReNUWIt in a water festival, and for use in a teacher training workshop.


Using simple materials, such as cafeteria trays, wooden blocks, sponges, and felt strips, the young designers created their model cities. They considered issues such as permeable and impermeable surfaces, water for fish, and preventing flood damage. They saw their designs tested by simulated floods and pollution, and raced back to make adjustments—seeing themselves as responsible engineers.

The activity supports ReNUWIt’s goal to inspire children’s interest in water science and engineering.  Throughout the activity, expert volunteers from ReNUWIt asked the young designers to explain their city features and predict how stormwater (and pollutants) would move through— and were on hand to answer questions and give advice. A cadre of Ingenuity Lab volunteers helped facilitate the activity.