Rob O’Leary on wastewater – plus new tools for finding answers

At First Friday, we learned about some games – and about the issues those games address.

Chris Hanson, who teaches Applied Technology at Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School, started the ball rolling with a request for mentors. Chris is looking to start a team for the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics team at DY. The program is equated to a varsity sport for the mind, with star-power and real world experience. The students work with mentors along the way, gaining knowledge and skills of real-life engineering. Running the project like a business, the kids learn organization, leadership, project management and more.

They are looking for mentors with tech skills, as well as skills that any good business would need. It’s not just robotics. According to Steve Cremer, Regional Director of FIRST, mentor volunteer hours range from “two hours a year to the black hole.” Contact Chris at DYRHS if you’d like to help.

The other game mentioned at First Friday is The Community Plan-It Game.

From the Cape Cod Commission’s website:

As part of an intensive outreach effort for the regional water quality plan update, the Cape Cod Commission partnered with Emerson College’s Engagement Game Lab to create two online games.

By completing challenges, players earn awards and collect coins which they then pledge to sponsor real-world causes. In the end, the top causes are awarded real project funding. In the process, citizens get the chance to tell their stories, interact with people they normally wouldn’t, reflect on their views, and generate data useful to planners.

In addition to Community Plan-It, Kristy Senatori (Deputy Director Cape Cod Commission) explained that the Commission has developed a wastewater tool to help citizens figure out which way will clean up nitrogen fastest. Both encourage public participation, which is needed more than ever.

Our speaker for the morning was Rob O’Leary. Rob has been the State Senator for the Cape and Islands, a Barnstable County Commissioner, and is now on the Board of Directors of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce. He is a professor at Massachusetts Maritime Academy and has a Ph.D in American History with degrees from Georgetown, Harvard, and Tufts universities.

Rob did not come to talk about games. He came to talk about wastewater, and how it’s the single biggest issue facing Cape Cod.

Coming from the Chamber of Commerce, Rob says the business community recognizes there’s a problem and wants to do something about it. We have a serious environmental problem, he said. If we fail to act, we will reach a point where it’s irreversible.

Cape Cod’s economic well-being is linked to the environment. If we let the environment deteriorate, it impacts our real estate values and our ability to do business. Furthermore, if we don’t step up to the plate and do something about it, someone else might. Rob says there’s a lawsuit out there that might precipitate a court-ordered clean-up.

Each of the towns has specific problems and needs, but we need to come together in order to access state and federal support. Additionally, the longer we wait, the more expensive the clean-up it becomes. The Cape Cod Commission and the Chamber are working together on this. Rob expects half the budget to come from state and federal goernments. The Federal government will want to protect the National Seashore.

Rob’s key points were that there’s no value in waiting and we need to begin building; that what we do must be environmentally defensible, as well as cost-effective; and that we need to educate ourselves and our neighbors because if people aren’t paying attention, they don’t know there’s a problem.

All our communities need to be involved. Could a game help bring more people to the table? Hopefully we’ll find out soon.

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