Mum’s pop-up bridge design wins national flooding challenge award

Deborah Whittle
Deborah Whittle
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A MUM’S invention – designed to protect people, property and livestock during flash floods – has won a national award.

Deborah Whittle, of Cleadon, devised a “pop-up” bridge, inspired by a childhood game of building bridges out of plastic crates, to form a temporary road which could be used to save lives and help in rescues.

The Modular Raised Road design landed the Sunderland University student first prize in the undergraduate category of the Environment Agency (EA) Flash Flooding Challenge – and a £500 prize.

The competition, open to students and researchers from universities across the North of England, was held to find innovative ideas to help communities at risk of flash flooding.

It saw Deborah presenting her concept to representatives of the Environment Agency, the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM), and other members of the water industry.

The mum-of-two said: “I was delighted just to get to the final. I’m absolutely thrilled to bits to have won.

Deborah Whittle

Deborah Whittle

“With predictions that flash flooding could become more common, I think there could be a real need for the Modular Raised Road to save lives and aid rescues.”

Deborah’s idea is based on a mini-scaffolding tower allowing people, vehicles, wheelchair users and livestock to be moved to safely in the event of flooding.

It was inspired by a childhood game she used to play of building bridges out of plastic crates. The inspiration for the simple idea came about two years ago when Deborah saw a motorist drive through a road which had been flooded and become stuck, near her home.

The idea had been floating around the applied business computing student’s head, but it was only when the university put a call out to students to enter the EA’s competition that her concept could finally be put to the test.

Deborah’s programme leader, Dr Susan Jones, senior lecturer in digital media at the university, said: “Deborah did a fantastic presentation. The judges were very impressed by her innovation, how she had investigated and researched her product, and how she pitched her idea.”

Sam Billington, project manager at the Environment Agency, said: “The Flash Flooding Challenge demonstrates the amazing talent we have in our universities and that the Environment Agency is eager to reward keen minds.”