Platform to shine: students investigate the flooding crisis in Canada through Map the System

Jan 8th, 2021

Sarah Croft

Platform to shine: students investigate the flooding crisis in Canada through Map the System

A catastrophic cyclone inspired two Memorial students to dig deeper into a climate issue that affects many countries around the world.

Bo Simango (MSc. ’20) became passionate about the issues surrounding climate change and natural disasters after his home country of Zimbabwe was hit by the third most destructive cyclone in the southern hemisphere in 2019 which led to widespread flooding.

Mr. Simango and Ali Alfosool, a PhD candidate in computer science, who both co-founded Holocene, decided to further explore their passion for the environment and participate in the 2020 Map the System challenge. A month after Zimbabwe was hit with a cyclone, they learned about the flooding in Canada, specifically in Quebec, New Brunswick and Ontario. This led to focusing their Map the System topic on “The Flooding Crisis in Canada”.

“We felt it would be a great avenue to channel our passion for the environment and climate change and to probe and highlight flooding, a persistent and prominent problem that not only affected my country of origin but also Canada, where we call home,” said Mr. Simango.

What is Map the System?

Map the System is a one-of-a-kind challenge that requires students to use a systems-thinking approach to demonstrate a deep understanding of a pressing social or environmental challenge. Students are required to research a social or environmental problem that they’re passionate about and gain skills in systems thinking to understand ways the problem can be addressed.

Systems thinking is a way of exploring complex problems. It is an approach that demands a deeper understanding of the behaviour of systems. It shows connections, interrelationships, and patterns as opposed to isolated events.

Mr. Simango and Mr. Alfosool used a systems thinking approach as they examined the issue of flooding in Canada, highlighting the interrelationships and the sequence of system characteristics that have led to the flooding crisis.

They were awarded first place in the local competition held at Memorial in April, receiving a cash award of $1,000.

With 3500 teams registered globally, 54 higher education institutions, and 16 countries and regions represented, the duo went on to represent Memorial at the virtual Canadian competition in May, where they were one of six teams chosen to advance to the virtual global finals. Although they did not place in the global finals, their hard work was recognized.

“Going through each step and winning the competition within our university and becoming one of the Canadian finalists, we are both blessed and proud to have represented Canada in the global finals and amazed to see that we have sparked interest in our cause, which affects millions of Canadians every year,” said Mr. Alfosool.

‘Beacon of hope’

Mr. Afosool says Map the System helped them explore the issue of flooding in Canada and find key stakeholders who can help them improve the conditions surrounding flooding events.

“Map the System has become a beacon of hope and an incredible avenue and platform for young, bright minds that are primed and ready to change the world with their visionary ideas who need a platform to shine. Participation in the Map the System competition has been a life-changing event for us and we encourage everyone who loves our planet and wants to change the world for the better to participate.”

Registration for Map the System 2021 is currently open until Jan. 31, 2021. If you’re interested in participating or learning more about the competition, click here.

Watch Mr. Simango and Mr. Alfosool’s presentation here during the Canadian Finals.