Announcement

Thomas Maiorana Part of Team helping Northern California Communities Reduce Wildfire Risk

Assistant Professor Thomas Maiorana is among the interdisciplinary, multicampus researchers from the University of California partnering with agencies and community organizations in the Bay Area to help residents respond to natural disasters more quickly — and more safely.

Maiorana and other researchers will take the information about communications networks and data from the digital twin to create two web-based serious games to help stakeholders and citizens. The researchers will be advised by an outside expert, Raph Koster, a commercial game designer and entrepreneur well known for his contributions to Ultima Online, an award-winning massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). 

Their first game will take Maiorana’s previous work on evacuation exercises into the digital realm, while the second will address long-term risk management activities for the community, such as fire-hardening residential buildings or even rezoning neighborhoods. 

“Serious games connect to a visceral experience,” Maiorana said. “Suddenly, I’m a little nervous, competitive — I’m engaged in a way that makes the experience more real for me, as a player.” 

Maiorana will also lend his prototyping expertise across teams where applicable. In addition, he will design a community event aimed at sparking conversations and facilitating connections among different groups.

Building on a Seed Funding project from the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society and the Banatao Institute (CITRIS), with significant support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), researchers from the University of California (UC) are taking lessons learned from the Camp Fire and other disasters and applying their expertise in complex systems modeling, risk management and human-computer interaction to mitigate future tragedies in hazard-prone communities.

The NSF has awarded $2.5 million, co-funded by its Smart & Connected Communities and Advancing Informal STEM Learning programs, to a team of engineers, policy scholars and design experts at the UC campuses in Berkeley, Davis and Santa Cruz. 

For complete details about the project, CITRIS website.

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