MSU Students Get Top Award for Capstone Project: Getting the WRiFT on Wildfires

May 16, 2022

MSU Students Get Top Award for Capstone Project: Getting the WRiFT on Wildfires

Michigan State University Students and Anthropocene Institute Work Together on Powerful Simulation Tool

Over the last 60 years, over 500 wildfires have damaged California's San Francisco Bay Area, causing untold injuries, deaths, and damages. Driven by climate change, the problem is only getting worse. Climate induced wildfires are becoming a year-round occurrence. A group of Michigan State University Computer Science students — Jingxian Chen, Andrew Haas, Andrew McDonald, Ben Miller, Jamie Schmidt, and Nathan Woods — share a passion for both solving the climate crisis and mitigating wildfires with Anthropocene.

For their Capstone project in Computer Science, sponsored by Anthropocene Institute, these talented students created WRiFT: Wildfire Risks Forecasting Tool over the course of a semester. The sophisticated simulation and forecasting tool can be used by anyone, anywhere to determine how wildfire might affect their local community and to determine how to protect their families, homes, and neighbors.

Students Win Top Award 

For their hard work and resourcefulness, the team won the Capstone program's Amazon Sigma Award, the top prize among 30 teams that took part of the in the Spring 2022 capstone program at MSU.

“We chose Anthropocene as the partner for our Capstone project because it was an opportunity to do something that had real, lasting impact and to build something interesting while doing it,” said McDonald. “We were given a great opportunity to build something from the ground up that intersected with our technical skills and our passions as people.”

Visualizing Wildfire Risks

With WRiFT, users can visualize wildfire risks and simulate the impacts of a hypothetical wildfire. It’s also possible to run “mock” scenarios for different users: homeowners, climate activists, or city managers to gauge potential effects. It’s a useful tool to help people understand why we need to find innovative ways to tackle climate change and the resulting wildfires.

To complete the project, the students worked hand-in-hand with Anthropocene experts. “We had a remarkably seamless teamwork experience with the Anthropocene team,” said Haas. “This has probably been the single easiest group project of my life, simply because we all were all on the same page from day one.”

WRiFT is available here for anyone’s use. To learn more, watch the engaging project video. The WRiFT public GitHub code repository is here.

Congratulations Team WRiFT!
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