Rwanda unveils Water Resources Modelling Hackathon for University Students

By Wycliffe Nyamasege
On 3 April 2024 at 01:59

The Rwanda Water Resources Board (RWB) has launched a modeling hackathon targeting undergraduate and master’s students in local institutions of higher learning.

The contest, aimed at engaging youth in water conservation efforts, targets students enrolled in programs related to water resources, climate, urban planning, and geography.

Speaking during the launch of the competition on Wednesday, April 3, 2024, Bernard Musana Segatagara, the Head of the Knowledge and Forecasting Hub Department at RWB, said that participants will be required to develop models aimed at solving common issues in water management, including floods and conservation.

“It will be mainly a rainfall-runoff model. That means the relationship between the rainfall that falls and the water that we have in the river, which is governed by many things, including evapotranspiration, the topography, the form of the river, geometry of the catchment, and many other factors,” Segatara said, adding that the participants will use existing data to guide them in designing the models.

The participants are required to use the HEC-HMS or SWAT model to produce a well-calibrated hydrological model for any of the four Level 2.5 Rwandan sub-catchments, including Kamiranzovu, Sebeya Pfunda, Sebeya Bihongoro, and Mbirurume.

Notably, HEC-HMS and SWAT are hydrological models that simulate water movement through watersheds, also known as drainage basins.

Interested candidates have until April 19, 2024, to register. Based on the submissions, RWB will select students who will participate in the challenge. Selected students will have until June to submit model files and documentation to pave the way for review and selection of winners.

Seven finalists will pocket a total of RWF3.8 million in prize money, with the first winner walking away with RWF1 million. The first and second runners-up will receive RWF800,000 and RWF600,000 respectively.

The remaining candidates will be awarded RWF500,000 (4th place), RWF400,000 (5th place), RWF300,000 (6th place), and RWF200,000 (7th place).

Besides the prize money, all the participants will benefit from networking and capacity building.

Gisele Igiraneza and Karekezi Jean Pierre are among the students from the University of Rwanda who have expressed interest in participating in the contest.

The two final-year Civil Engineering students attended the launch of the hackathon in the company of their lecturers, including Professor Garba Wali Umara.

“Participating in the hackathon will help me put the skills learned in class into real life and solve problems in water management. For example, in May last year, in Rubavu District, there were floods in Sebeya River which killed many people and destroyed property. The models will help prevent such disasters,” said Pierre, who also doubles up as Coordinator of the Young Water Professionals Chapter of the University of Rwanda."

RWB is running the contest in partnership with Arcos Network, an international organization focusing on conservation and community development.

Jacqueline Ntukamazina, the Director, Development, Operations and External Relations at Arcos Network, said the contest will empower local youth in terms of water resources management and problems affecting natural resources, and how communities can be more engaged in water conservation.

She highlighted that the main challenges affecting local natural resources include pollution, catchment degradation causing sedimentation, and biodiversity losses.

Jacqueline Ntukamazina, the Director, Development, Operations and External Relations at Arcos Network
University of Rwanda final-year Engineering student, Gisele Igiraneza, takes notes during the event
Participants, including students from the University of Rwanda and their lecturers, at the launch of the hackathon