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Kids 4 Change

Newcastle University’s Water Security and Sustainable Hub, a multidisciplinary collaborative hub formed to solve some of the complex and pressing issues of the recent times. The hub has partners globally and aims to use their expertise and networks to deliver sustainable solutions to societal challenges. As a part of their educational initiative, they recently undertook a six-week hands-on-learning programme to equip children, to understand the global challenges emanating through ‘climate change’.

The initiative led by Professor Pauline Dixon and Dr Gopal Iyer along with a multidisciplinary team was undertaken at the Corbridge Middle School, with the support of the teachers, Meryl Batchelder and Marion Pound, passionate advocates of climate change themselves. Under the overarching theme of ‘climate change’ a six-week programme focusing on different themes was conceived by the team. The themes comprised of:

  • Global collaborative networks and their impacts;

  • Fast fashion;

  • Water conservation and pollution prevention;

  • Soil protection and preservation;

  • Effects of air pollution and;

  • Understanding geospatial interventions through unmanned (uncrewed) air systems (UAS).

Dr Maria-Valasia Peppa, Research Associate at the Geospatial Engineering Group, led the session on geospatial interventions and discussed the crucial nature of UAS and the role that they play to detect the changes taking place on the land and water bodies due to advent of climate change. The session was divided into three parts:

  1. academic lecture;

  2. demonstration of different type of UAS (fixed-wing and multi-rotors) and sensors that can be carried on-board and;

  3. UAS flying operation at the school’s back yard.

In particular, Dr M. V. Peppa discussed during the lecture the importance of using UAS for scientific purposes, with their ability to provide access to the areas that are too difficult or perilous for humans, and their ability to capture real-life landscapes with intricate details. To illustrate her point, she narrated the formation of lakes caused by glaciers melting in the Himalayas. Images captured with a fixed-wing UAS supported by researchers from ICIMOD, Nepal were stitched together to reconstruct a detailed 3D model of a particular glacial lake in the Himalayas. The 3D model can be viewed here.

During the demonstration session the students had an opportunity to interact with the UAS that the Newcastle team had brought with them. There were two different systems on display, the DJI M600 and the DJI Phantom 4 Pro. The DJI M600 UAS carries a thermal camera, the Workswell WIRIS Pro that captures thermogram observations compared to the DJI Phantom 4 Pro that is equipped with a built-in RGB compact camera capturing aerial imagery in visible electromagnetic wavelength. The DJI M600 UAS is a relatively heavy system suited for complex topography of inaccessible landscapes. The DJI Phantom 4 Pro is lightweight and easy to use, capable of capturing high quality imagery, suited for commercial, academic as well as leisure photography and videography. Students were allowed to explore the systems and Dr M. V. Peppa explained more about each of the UAS when the students interacted with them closely.

An interesting activity was when the students could see a thermographic response of their body as captured via the thermal camera and they could spot warm/cold regions of their body and the surrounding room.

Another activity included students’ interaction with a 3D-printed surface model of a cultural-heritage landscape in Birdoswald over the Hadrian’s wall. The Newcastle team had brought a 3D model which was 3D printed to showcase the dramatic slope in Birdoswald that is under threat due to fluvial erosion and this can have an adverse impact on the Hadrian’s fort nearby. For more information, you can check the newsfeed of the project Cultural Heritage through Time here.

Post the interactive session, Dr M. V. Peppa explained the safety protocols and the students went for a live flying operation with the pilot Mr Johannes Senn (who is also one of our current PhD candidates using UAS for fluvial geomorphological research, who flew the DJI Phantom 4 Pro. The students displayed a bold message to the world (#CorbridgeHeroes4ClimateChange), passionately demonstrating what they stood for as a team.

What do the kids think?

‘We all connect together and we all live on the planet, and we all need to do something about it because there’s no Planet B, is there?’ Elise
‘I chatted to my mum and my dad and we talked about trying to plant a carbon-neutral garden… so we bought the volcanic rock dust and we’re actually going to create it over the holiday.’ Orran
'You need to listen to us and you need to think about what we’re saying. We need to act now, not in 4 months, not in a year, but now.’ Josh

The Newcastle team learnt immensely from their intervention and are currently developing plans to emulate the success demonstrated at Corbridge Middle School with schools in their project partners and stakeholders countries, Malaysia, India, Colombia and Ethiopia.

If you would like to know more about the project or get involved, please get in touch with Dr Gopal Iyer at



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