Photo by Gertrūda Valasevičiūtė on
Photo by Gertrūda Valasevičiūtė on

This spring the Nordic Water Network organised its 19th seasonal school – the first one, which was conducted fully digitally. The topic of this module regarded the digitalization of the water sector, hence the title “Data Science and Artificial Intelligence for Urban Water Management” was chosen. The school took place from 25th to 29th May 2020 and, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, it was fully digitalized.

27 students from TUB, TUB’s Campus El Gouna, CUT (Cracow University of Technology) and NTUA (National Technical University of Athens) gathered to attend the lectures online, where they could deepen their knowledge in modelling and control of urban water systems, cybersecurity and other anomalies in urban water networks, smart metering and behavioural modelling, and water-energy nexus and water and urban development from the comfort of their homes. The students also received an introduction to data science and Artificial Intelligence in urban water systems. This is a very new topic for the Nordic Water Network summer school format, primarily fostered by the recently established research group Smart Water Networks of the TU Berlin and Einstein Center Digital Future. This was the first time that various topics from this particular research field have been collected into one course at TU Berlin.

According to the course coordinator and main lecturer, Dr. Andrea Cominola, the biggest challenges faced by organizing the summer school in this extraordinary format did not originate from the technical side. The course participants were following lectures on Zoom, took their exams on the WebEx platform and conducted individual as well as group assignments on TU’s Moodle platform ISIS.

The main challenge was to create a classroom feeling on a virtual platform. During a physically attended course it is much easier to interact with the students, encourage a discussion or to receive direct and indirect feedback by the students”, concludes Dr. Cominola. He adds: “Having to organise the event in a completely digital format had both its advantages and disadvantages. The biggest advantages being the easier conditions to invite international professors from outside the NWN, as well as making it possible for external students to follow the lectures they are interested in without having to complete an examination. The greatest disadvantage of the fully digitalised event however is the lack of social group activities outside the courses, cancelling the planned field trips to some water facilities in Berlin, and not being able to visit the city”. When asked what teaching methods from this year’s fully digitalised summer school could be applied for the future schools, Dr. Cominola shared an idea of organising the following schools in a hybrid format, combining online lectures with physically attended group activities, practical sessions, lab experiments and field trips in the city.

All in all, the 2020 summer school turned out to be just as informative and engaging as the previous NWN schools, despite the lack of physical presence.