Competitive challenge held in Norfolk to combat sea level rise

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NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A competitive challenge took place in Norfolk Thursday, but the teams weren’t competing against each other. 

They were fighting sea level rise.

It’s called the MIT Solveathon — which Old Dominion University helped facilitate — and teams come up with ideas on how to deal with sea level rise and flooding. 

Event organizers say this is a first of its kind event held in this area — and they’re optimistic about the ideas put forward. 

“The solutions aren’t apparent yet but we’re pretty sure we’re going to come away with some value today,” said Karen Lindquist, chief operating officer of Green Stream Technologies, Inc.

It was a day full of brainstorming for Lindquist — who is working to build flood sensors so Norfolk residents know where they can and cannot drive during storms.

“The goal for today is to refine our idea,” she said.

Paul Robinson is the executive director of RISE, a new nonprofit formed to “encourage private sector innovation” about sea level rise. The group has their own resilience challenge.

“We have 60 team members, subject matter experts and people who just want to listen in on what’s going on, to talk about technical solutions. And it’s been great so far,” Robinson said.

Winners of the MIT Solve Challenge will get $10,000 to see their projects through.  RISE has more than $1 million to give away.         

Robinson says the goal is to take what comes from the challenge and use it.

“The idea is to develop ideas locally, demonstrate them locally, have the cities buy them and  then take them to the global market,” he said.

This means ideas like Lindquist’s flood sensors, constructing buildings differently and helping flood prone neighborhoods survive.

It’s those small ideas they hope will make a different in helping them stick it to sea level rise.

Detailed plans for the Solve Challenge must be submitted by July 1.

RISE’s deadline is the end of September.

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