From Pyrophile to Cartophile

[DISCLAIMER: This post has little about fire but the IMFSE life is not just about the F]

The IMFSE experience is known to provide opportunities to travel and gain international exposure. Of all the things that travelling brings, my favorite activity when travelling is…. reading maps. It’s quite strange and my travelling buddies often tease that my head is often buried in maps or that I can somehow remember street names and directions once that map is in my head. Getting lost and being found is the magic of travel. Without a (google) map in hand, I doubt many of us would be able to get to wherever we need to be. Thus, I was instinctively drawn to the Missing Maps Project; a humanitarian project who aims to map the most crisis-prone parts of the developing world, to help NGOs and the rescue teams access different region.

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What Missing Maps are all about. We are the remote “armchair mappers” in Step 1.

My first encounter with the project was through a student organization in the University of Edinburgh, Engineering 4 Change (E4C), aiming to provide engineering solutions to development issues. (University of Edinburgh has more than 280 awesome student organisations – not including their sports teams – catering to everyone’s interest and skills!! Highly recommended to join them (I joined 3!!) and explore life outside the classroom.). E4C organizes many activities to link the technical engineering world to society at large and one such event is the Missing Maps Marathon. I was clueless about what it was about but since there was “maps”, I’m in. And I’m still into it.

The Mapathon started with like-minded engineers gathered in Appleton Tower, laptops (and the all-important mouse) at hand, ready to map-it-out. The task for this Mapathon was to map out the Manyoni district in Tanzania to help the NGO there working to prevent female genital mutilation with their outreach work to girls at risk in remote villages by providing better road and residential area data. (To learn more about how maps can help, view this video) It’s hard to imagine that there are areas which are not (google) mapped. We take for granted that every street in every city has been mapped but the fact is that it has only been mapped by private organization where it is profitable to do so. I realized how previous and essential maps can be (especially when you are trying to figure out where is the road and the building from crude satellite images). Although technically this can be done at home in your PJs (or in PJ = Palsjoang), it was really fun to map alongside other mappers scrutinizing and consulting each other (is that a building or a tree?) and of course, there was pizza!!!

Having moved to Lund for the new semester, I thought the Mapathon days will be over but thanks to an independent non-profit organisation, ABC Lund, my mapping days (or rather nights) continue! This time I brought Kate along for her debut mapping experience for ABC Sweden’s Humanitarian Mapping Workshop. The task was to map the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh to help UNHCR plot the camps in order support the humanitarian response to the crisis. We had to plot all the shelters separately (in fact, 1924 buildings (!) and shelters were mapped that night) but ABC Lund gave a small reward to the best contributor of the evening! Guess who went home with the top prize….

Two weeks later, I was back for yet another workshop with ABC Lund but this time the task came full circle as it was the same as the one I did with E4C. It made me wonder just how much mapping has yet to be done not only in Tanzania but all over the world. I even wonder whether such measures could help in the issue of fires in informal settlements (a topic we learnt about in out Fire Safety Engineering and Society course) be it in recording the distribution of smoke alarms or the study of fire spread between settlements as I doubt these informal settlements which at high risk of fire are documented in accessible maps as well. In any case, whether you are cynical about the impact of these maps or not, I believe taking time off and doing something different which you are interested in could be rather therapeutic. So for fellow cartophiles…. take up mapping and make a difference.

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Keep the Flame Burning!

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IMFSE says hi to everyone! (Photo by Elise)

When we want to maintain or improve something, we have to constantly check on it. When we want to increase heat release rate, add more fuel (not always the case though such as for ventilation-controlled fire, HAHAHA!). For IMFSE, February is the time of the year when professors and students convene at Lund University for the Annual Management Board Meeting. Professors Bart Merci, Grunde Jomaas, Patrick van Hees, Ruben van Coile, Enrico Ronchi and IMFSE Administrator Elise Meerburg joined the students in discussion about the strengths of the program and suggestions for improvement.

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Gorgeous student representatives (guys, free dinner will do, thanks! HAHAHA)

Overall, IMFSE got a positive feedback from the students – topnotch universities, variety in teaching, mobility to different countries, international cultural experience and new field of study. No doubt that this program was considered a “success story” by the European Commission. Even if the program is considered successful, the management still wants to strive to make it better edition after edition. The professors also discussed several thesis topics and the strength of the partner and associated universities towards research. Surely, there are still a lot more to learn about fire safety engineering and everyone of us is excited to engage ourselves in contributing towards this growing body of knowledge.

After the meeting, we got to hangout with the professors at O’Learys. We had some drinks and we got to play shuffle board with them. The best battle was between Team Guacamole – Masala (Silvia and Dheeraj) and Team Ghendinburgh (Bart and Grunde). I have to say that the professors did well, after a couple of tries, they learned the physics immediately. But I guess, students become more powerful outside class, HAHAHA! Some played basketball arcade and the results of the battle between two second year students will be kept as a secret forever, HAHAHA!

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Students won!

In the end, it was a really a productive and fun-filled night. IMFSE, already a success story, will continue to improve itself for the next generation of students. Let’s keep the flame burning in our hearts and not in our buildings, HAHAHA!

Awesome Fire Lab Experience

As many of you may known, in the first semester in Edinburgh we didn’t have any laboratory  hours, but thanks to Prof. Grunde Jomaas we had a guided tour in the fire lab of the University of Edinburgh. Because of this, we already had some idea of how the fire tests are carried out in the real life. However, our expectations of the approaching laboratory work were far from reality, in a good way.

In the Lund University, within the course on Advanced Fire Dynamics, we finally got the opportunity to make our own experiments on fire. My team and I were a little bit scared, because we never worked together as a team for this kind of tasks and the level of responsibility supposed to be very high while working with real fires rather then modeling or solving fire problems on paper.

The first laboratory work was dedicated to the Heat Release Rate measuring. We took three different types of fuel – propane, heptane and wooden cribs to obtain HRR and mass loss rate values. Most of the lab time we spent on the familiarization with equipment and preparing samples.

Our mentor during lab session was Prof. Stefan Svensson who looks like Dr. Heisenberg from “Breaking Bad” series. Find the differences below 🙂


Andrei also made a comparison, he presented their team on Instagram as the characters of “Misfits”, and their supervisor as … guess who? Sure, Heisenberg.

We enjoyed doing the lab experiments very much! We had so much fun while working and investigating, so that, hopefully, we will never forget knowledges and experience obtained through this 2 hour session.

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“Jenga” never was so difficult! (preparing wooden cribs for fire)

So, experimental part is done. Ahead there are hours of calculations and analyzing results. Hope that we will enjoy further lab calculations in the same degree 🙂

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The Quickly Responding Firefighters

This incident happened less than a month ago when we moved to Sweden for our second semester in Lund University. I am staying in a corridor room in one of the university accommodations, the only one from IMFSE staying here. It was just my second night here in Lund when a very loud familiar sound broke the silence of the midnight.

For some unknown reason, the fire alarm turned on. Everyone in the corridor was almost asleep when we heard it so we peeked out of the door and looked at each other puzzled. As an FSE student, I tried to look for the source in the kitchen and the fire extinguisher to stop the fire if there is any at its growth stage. But there was none. So, we asked each other if this is just a drill or a real fire scenario and it took us a long time to actually evacuate outside the building. After about 15 minutes out in the cold only wearing pajamas (around 25 minutes after the alarm started), actual firefighters came in to our surprise. THIS MUST BE SOMETHING REAL. They checked the rooms and gave us an assurance that we are fire-safe.

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This is when I saw the different things we discuss in our Human Behavior in Fire subject. First is misinterpretation. A lot misinterpreted the alarm and that is the reason for the long time before evacuation and for some who did not even bother to go out. Second is investment. Some did not evacuate because they are so invested in the activity that they are doing. One even went inside the shower to take a bath. Third is gathering of important items. There are some who went back to take a jacket and put shoes on. One was carrying a cup of tea. Most importantly, the event also validated the thing we discussed about competitive behavior and panic, that they are just myths in a fire evacuation and despite being in such a situation, everyone remained calm.

However, apart from applying what I learned from our HBiF subject, I learned a deeper realization. Most people would still take for granted the sound of an alarm, that they are still not knowledgeable enough of proper evacuation. I cannot know for sure if they will still act that way if they saw an actual fire. But I can say that we still have a long way to go to educate people about fire safety.

Fortunately, everything went fine. It was a chance to meet each other for the first time, haha! With the quick response of the firefighters, I can say that Lund takes fire safety seriously. The university is also giving us interesting lectures not just about fire but also about human behavior. After all, the main goal of FSE is to save lives. Luckily for me, I got some hands-on experience from this incident. In terms of fire safety education, Lund is indeed one of the best places to be.

Into the Scottish Highlands

End of the exam period last December in Edinburgh wasn’t special only for the fact that, of course, the exams were over and that a 3-week vacation could start. What made it so joyfully anticipated was the fact that my brother Boris and one of our best friends Danijela were coming for a visit! Being adventurer as I am, and having two like-minded people on my side, it wasn’t hard agreeing on making a road trip around the famous Scottish Highlands!

As we left Edinburgh, there were a few essential spots to visit in close proximity to the city, before starting the long way! Our first stop was an adorable village of Queensferry, connected to its opposing partner – North Queensferry, by the iconic Forth Bridge. Apart from having the second longest single cantilever bridge span in the world, and being one of the most famous symbols of Scotland, this bridge was featured in numerous television programmes, films and video games including one of my all-time favourites Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas!

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Should have been named – GTA Edinburgh!
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Blue sky and a beautiful bridge make you forget how cold it actually is

Only a couple of miles away our next stop awaited. Standing 30 meters high, two horse-head sculptures also known as The Kelpies, represent the World’s largest equine (relating to horses) sculptures. The Kelpies name reflected the mythological transforming beasts possessing the strength and endurance of 100 horses – a quality that is analogous with the transformational change of Scotland’s landscapes, endurance of Scotland’s inland waterways and the strength of Scotland’s communities.

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Trio as powerful as the Kelpies!

The last, but not least stop on the start of our trip was the engineering wonder called The Falkirk Wheel. It’s the only rotating boat lift of its kind in the world, and it indeed left us speechless!

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I could watch this for the whole day

As we moved up north, in a couple of hours we found ourselves at the gate of Highlands. The first sight to arrive at was the famous Glen Coe. This lovely valley surrounded by breath-taking mountains immediately gave a meaning to the name of the region – the Highlands.

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Favorite valley of most Scottish people, no wonder why
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Couldn’t be happier 🙂

As the winter days this north are extremely short, we wasted no time, and we continued towards our next stop. If you have ever seen a Harry Potter movie, then you will immediately recognize this stunning bridge.

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Hogwarts express line!

The best thing about the Glenfinnan Viaduct is that the bridge is not the only beautiful thing around. The bay that the bridge is overlooking makes this whole place completely miraculous.

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When you make a postcard out of this one, please do mention the author!

And finally, deep in the night, we arrived to our final destination – the Isle of Skye where we spent a night in a hostel in the largest town of the island – Portree, counting approximately 2300 people 😱!

As we woke up the following morning, exploration of the Isle of Skye could officially start! Having met quite a few friendly Scottish people on our way (most of them are indeed), we got the first-hand tips about the best places to see on our two-day visit to this remote island. Only 10km away from Portree, our first “must-see” spot awaited – The Old Man of Storr. A steep rocky hike was extremely difficult at this time of the year, due to the huge amounts of ice along the whole path. Nevertheless, we managed to make about a half of the full climb which was more than enough to experience some spectacular views of both the stunning Storr rocks and the bay beneath us.

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It’s all good!
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Smiling in this winter wonderland 🙂

Without further ado, we continued further north making a circle around the whole island, having numerous stops just to appreciate the scenic views surrounding us.

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Its truly super hard focusing on driving a car with the views like this – great job Danijela 😉

To sum up the day, a visit to Talisker – the distillery of my brother’s favourite whisky was inevitable. Learning all about the whisky production process and eventually tasting this fine single malt gave a special flavour to this truly Scottish day.

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Seems like Scots are born obsessed with whisky – eyes of the girl are just shining!
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So do our eyes!

Waking up early the next day, in order to make the most out of it, we headed to the western most point of the Island – the Neist Point. High terrifying cliffs, no people, strong winds and a lighthouse at the very end of the island, next to the open ocean seemed like a perfect setting for a spooky movie 😱! Notwithstanding, these 3 brave Serbs still managed to fully enjoy this scenic area having fun like they were in a comedy movie rather than a spooky one 😉

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Another postcard, you’re welcome!
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Photo credits – big brother – not bad 😉
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People are such a minority in Highlands!

As the clock was ticking, we knew it was time to slowly head back towards the capital. On our way back, we encountered several beautiful castles, which felt like an ordinary thing in Scotland. But why I’m even more proud of this brave trio is the fact that we even managed to get to the Loch Ness without being eaten by the Nessie! 😊

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The notorious Loch Ness

And oh yes, I almost forgot, we managed to do 1600km in 3 days with this beast!

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This cutie didn’t betray us, super proud!

Finally, in late night we arrived back to Edinburgh. Overwhelmed by how beautiful Scotland can be even in the middle of winter, we all agreed that this country deserves plenty of visits in future, as there are still countless unexplored beauties waiting to be discovered!

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Back at that panorama of all the panoramas!