There are plenty of ways to gain knowledge. For sure, a classroom setting full of theories and equations is not enough for holistic learning. For what is knowledge if it will not be applied? This first period of the semester in Lund University did not fail to give us the avenue to learn outside the conventional method. Professors gave us tasks to be worked on independently, a chance to find out by ourselves the answers to the questions that we have.
Our course about Human Behavior in Fire tackled the psychology behind why humans act the way we do in disaster situations especially fire. One area of this course is about pedestrian movement. This subject area, same as human behavior in general, is random in nature although we can still find values statistically to quantify it such as speed, density, etc. Data about human movement is very little so in our class we designed a field experiment to observe people and collect data. Our group went to the city center of Lund – cameras set up, sat in a bench for a good three hours under the sun to at least keep warm on a 2°C-weather, and started classifying people groups and quantifying their movement.
For our Advanced Fire Dynamics, each group was tasked to formulate their own scientific question and have it tested in the Fire Laboratory’s 1/3 ISO room cone calorimeter setup. Challenging your group’s hypotheses and seeing trends about what you are observing is both relieving and fulfilling at the same time. While waiting for the room to cool down for the next round of the experiment, we sat in front of the monitor and watched videos of real and experimental fire. Firefighters, although they have trainings, sometimes still get into trouble with fire because of its very unpredictable nature. I guess it is not bad to say that burning things for science is actually fun because this is how we study our enemy and find ways to defeat it.
Solving equations longhand is quite time-consuming even for just a simple problem. How much more is a very complex one? The answer is in technology through the use of computers. Simulation of Fires in Enclosures is another interesting course where we learn the theory behind fire modelling and apply it by coding several fire scenarios. I might add that programming also takes a lot of time but at least more complex problems can be solved, an obvious limitation of hand calculations. However, always remember that garbage in equals garbage out, that computer programs are just tools to help us make things easier and faster and we still have to go back to the books to explain the results.
In the end, the classroom is not the only place where we could learn. Be exposed to the world around you. Feed your curiosities. Explore and discover things.