blogpost Wetskills-United States 2015



As follow-up of the event in Canada, Wetskills is happening in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States. Read the daily blog of the participants and organization here.

blog#15, 25 June – by Tijmen Groot (University of Twente)

Wetskills Milwaukee USA, 2 weeks we will never forget!!!

The last day of the Wetskills Milwaukee 2015 trip was suddenly there. And just like all the days before it started way too early. So after again a short sleep, our so hated alarms woke us up at 6.45 am, because the program of today was 6 hours of presentation starting at 8.30am.  Side note: respect for Nick and Evelien who had to be there even 30 minutes in advance.

The presentation were held at the MillerCoors brewery.  Sadly enough though, this time no beers, or more import, no talks about our favorite subject.. HAPS;)

Instead we were provided with presentation about resource recovery, and phosphors, lots of phosphors. At a moment I was happy they finally start talking about nutrients. This of course leading to a dramatic drop of attention, which one of the speakers had well interpreted when he started to talk about NAPPS. The whole right section of the room (I think you can guess who sat there) were suddenly desperately hoping this could become true! When writing this I must also mention that this does not reflect the level of the speakers which all provided a good presentation.

DSC03665 DSC03674

After the presentations at the MillerCoors brewery and some groceries done it was time to finish the Wetskills event with an awesome BBQ, again held at the Alumni house. Well backed sausages, burgers and corns were deserved after which the last party need could start. We all enjoyed a lot of beers and mix drinks, the final party was on!!

And then finally the moment was there …. the hand over off our official Wetskills participation certificates! In general I can say we should all be very proud of what we have achieved as group! Really nice results are handed in and we were a fantastic group till the end…. O wait I didn’t finished the complete day jet, so after many more drinks it was time to go the favorite bar of this trip, the Gay-friendly Karaoke BAR. It turned out to be more than a remarkable night of which I won’t go in detail about!;)

I want to thank everyone for providing me such an amazing time here in Milwaukee! I hope I can see you all sometimes in future times wherever this may be!!

blog#14, 24 June – by Elsbeth Brandsma (University of Twente)

And the winner is …

Today was the day of the Grande Finale: soon we were about to find out which case would win the Wetskills challenge! But first we started this morning in the Pfister Hotel with a nice breakfast. Some of us were having a hard time, since we went out to town yesterday after completing all the tasks for Wetskills, and in particular the pitch and the poster presentation of that day.


At 9:00 the Water Summit was opened again in the grand ballroom, an extraordinary luxurious and large space in the Hotel. After that most of us participated in the ‘breakout session’: Resource Recovery in Wastewater & Water Treatment, which was hosted by Dutch speakers of The Water Alliance, Wetterskip FDSC03643ryslan and KWR Watercycle Research Institute.

The special speaker of this afternoon was Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, especially since he is running for president as the main candidate for the Republicans. After his speech  and the biggest applause I’ve heard in weeks, Netherlands Consul General Mr. Klaas van der Tempel was going to present the winner, which turned out to be the case of BersunUV: Congratulations guys! But also prHOPs for all the teams: everybody did an incredibly well job!!

DSC03654 DSC03650

In the evening we went to have a dinner with the Dutch Delegation who were in Milwaukee for the Water Summit. We had a dinner at a restaurant called ‘Café Hollander’. The interior was packed with bicycles and they served food that looked like the Dutch delicacy ‘Bitterballen’. When we finished our meal we decided to head towards worlds biggest festival: SummerFest. Which takes place in Milwaukee at the lakeshore. We’ve had a look at a fireworks show that seemed never ending, Bastille and finally DJ Kaskade. It was a real good day!

blog#13, 23 June – by Matthew Boelter (University of Wisconsin-Whitewater)

The word of the day… cluster

We finally made it! The first day of the Milwaukee Water Summit was at last in sight! My day started by spending a few minutes ensuring others’ suits were prim and proper before we were on our way to the promised land. After the short bus ride we arrived at our destination in the heart of downtown Milwaukee-the Pfister Hotel. I thought it was a bit early but as soon as we got off at the 7th floor, I discovered that the halls were already filled with a cluster of people, booths, posters, and breakfast.  ….Breakfast! Wait! At this point, I had nearly forgotten what breakfast was like while working in the pressure cooker for nearly two weeks. It seemed that the spectacular halls of this pseudo-baroque masterpiece truly was the promised land. Without hesitation, I reacquainted myself with the glorious taste of breakfast. After that long deserved breakfast, the sessions began.

Ahead was a long day of listening sessions, keynote speakers, and more information about clusters than I ever desired. First up were sponsors and directors of the Water Council who excited, agitated, and stirred up the audience only for us to be brought down like a comet crashing into the Earth by the doom and gloom forecasting experts at NASA. The Earth, it seemed, is a cluster of hopeless, irreparable problems. Next, I went to a US Department of Defense session where I felt like I was on a need-to-know basis. Probably the best advice I received was to thank a Canadian-eh!

Later in the afternoon the hotel turned off the air-conditioning and turned up the heat on our pitch presentations. But we were all too cool for that bag of tricks and the pitches went off without a hitch. The pressure cooker was our pain and giving the pitch was the cure. Now all that was left was Q&A at our posters and an evening with a cluster of libations served on the house thanks to the man of the house, Rich.

blog#12, 22 June – by Paul Proios (Ryerson University)

Almost Over!!!

After waking up full from the previous night’s excellent dinner (thanks girls!) Monday started out with the long bus ride from UWM to the School of Freshwater Sciences, just like all of our other work days. The difference this time was that it was the final work day to put the finishing touches on our posters, pitches and memos giving a little more excitement to the day.

View from SFS

View of the School for Freshwater Sciences

Once the deadlines had passed, we were free to do whatever we wanted for the rest of the day. Thankfully we have Katie, our wonderful American student, who has been playing tour guide for the trip. She took a few of us into downtown where he had some hops at a local bar and then we walked around taking in the scenery. I could not get over the fact that in the middle of a week day you can Cool Building Downtowndrive around downtown Milwaukee AND find parking! This is the complete opposite in Toronto where you crawl for 10 minutes just to move 100 meters.  After heading back to residence a few of the guys decided to head down to the beach, however, we were distracted by $1 drinks at a local bar and did not make it very far.

I have been thoroughly enjoying my time here and appreciate the friendships I have made and the teamwork, organizational and presentation skills I have gained. Overall Milwaukee is a great city with some beautiful historic buildings and the people are very friendly (they’re practically Canadian). If I ever move to this city it will be all thanks to deep fried cheese curds and maybe the badgers.

blog#11, 21 June – by Evelien Brand (Utrecht University)

Team waterbadgers for the win!

Today our team – The Waterdassen, Dutch for waterbadgers – has been preparing for the summit in the best possible way: working on our pitch, our tan and our general wellbeing. Oh, and some of our team members have been catching up on their sleep as well… In the morning, Katie, Tijmen and I have been working in the sun, at the terrace of a coffee place, while we were also trying to figure out where Greg was. Zombie-attack. Kidnapped by aliens. A long trip to the 7eleven? At 2 p.m. we finally got a text from him; he was alive and just woke up. So then we picked him up and practiced his pitch while walking to the beach (and he’s totally ready for Tuesday – reading along Greg?). Hard times here in Milwaukee.

20150621_114527 20150621_190449 IMG_1499 IMG_1490 20150621_203205

In the evening the girls cooked for the boys, while the boys arranged some hops. Sorry to all the feminists reading along. Katie arranged a really nice place, with a fancy dining room. But like for most party’s, the fun was in the kitchen, so that’s where we ended up eating.

So now, with our belly’s filled and our mood being good, we are looking forward to the summit.

blog#10, 20 June – by Gregory Giberson (Ryerson University)

Laundry Day! (I mean…Badgers! No, wait… Hops!)

LaundryToday was a great day in the great state of Wisconsin. The sun was shining. Everyone slept in, of course, since it was Saturday morning.

As we were getting closer to our deadlines, most of the teams spent the afternoon working on our pitch presentations, posters and memorandum here at the campus. The highlight of the day was that we actually did laundry! It was interesting as my Dutch teammates had never experienced a North American laundromat; they had never used top-load washers or even used a change machine. To pass the time, Evelien created a laundry dance; no video was made so it has been lost to the ages. We then all went out to eat at Five Guys burgers. By that time, it was late; typical Saturday night shenanigans followed.


blog#9, 19 June – by Willem-Jan Dirkx (Earth, Surface and Water at Utrecht University)

El Día de Muertos

It was as if five people had been spirited away this day at the School of Freshwater Sciences, each selected to do the pitch for their team. Including me, five ghosts were wandering the hallways of the building, turned inward and mumbling at scraps of paper, laptop or a phone in their hands as they moved from deserted hall to deserted hall. Sometimes one found an empty room to haunt for a while, talking aimlessly at a wall or to the window. Everyone who dared to badger them would be met with a glance of death, non-verbally informing the intruder to leave.

For hours on end the text would be repeated like a mantra. Mind numbing at best. The effort was however not futile, for at fifteen past one the pre-presentations would commence. After a meal consisting of a six inch sandwich, food which seemed to turn to ash in my  mouth. Far too soon we were at the Global Water Center, where in the hallway I repeated the same pattern from School of Freshwater Sciences. In less than half an hour I would be giving a two minute pitch to the other Wetskills participants and a whole host of experts which had turned up to give us feedback on our performance. It was also our first opportunity to show what we were capable of. I knew I was second, watching the excellent performance of the pitcher of the first group.

Then it was show time. We were introduced and the two minute countdown started. At roughly a third of my story I glanced sideways. Noticing that I had only half of the time left I ditched all of my notes, improvising my way to the end but still ending with the catchphrase that was also the motto of Wisconsin: “Forward!”. Not as good as I had wanted to, but all in all, it was far better than I had anticipated. Within an hour all the groups had done their story and received feedback. Relieved of the pressure of the impending presentations, and notebooks filled with feedback we retired. Now a new spectre haunts the group, the spectre of HAPS!

blog#8, 18 June – by Jim van der Graaf (Windesheim University of Applied Sciences)

Working day

My day started around 7am. Because we needed to take the bus around 8am. We went to the same building as yesterday and the day before to work on our Wetskills case.

My case is how to extract rare earth metals from the waste water treatment plant. The project is a  real challenge, for myself specially the biological part.  But I have 2 great team members, and one of them is great in the whole bio and chemical part.

During the lunch when everyone went to the subway I stayed to watch out over the laptops. Because I had the same thought as a honey badger and just didn’t gif a shit for a sandwich.

We left earlier then the day before around 5pm. Because a great American new about a meeting from the organization Clean Wisconsin. We from Wetskills were invited for a small dinner and a few drinks. Clean Wisconsin works not only in Milwaukee to improve the great lakes, but in the entire state as well.

The meeting was over, but our will to drink beer was still there. So we went to a nearby Irish bar for a great Miller time. The hops in the local beer is just amazing, I don’t belief that we have the same hop back home in the Netherlands.

blog#7, 17 June – by Katie Hall (University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee)

The Day All the Light Bulbs Went On

Today was one of the best days my team has had in the Wetskills Challenge.  Our case owner from Cadens LLC invited us to see the micro-hydropower site in Sullivan, Wisconsin – about 50 minutes west of Milwaukee.  After almost giving my Dutch teammates a heart attack after passing a few cars from the right (apparently this is a major no-no in the Netherlands), we made it and were really thrilled.

The over the past few days, we spent a lot of time trying to understand both the hydropower system and our specific challenge.  We were feeling a bit overwhelmed and still a little confused.  Luckily, as soon as we arrived on site, Joe, our case study owner, greeted us and calmed all of our nerves.  We took a long tour both inside and outside of the old mill, and Joe was there to answer any questions and listen to our ideas.  Looking out over that beautiful spillway, seeing his festive hops plants along the rushing waters, it was difficult to not get excited and motivated to really do well in this challenge.

IMG_2511 IMG_2508 IMG_2509 IMG_2510

After the tour, Joe and Randy, his business partner, took us over to a local pub where he had dinner brought in from us from a local sustainable fish farm.  We sat and talked for hours – About the exciting growth his company is experiencing, the current political climate in the Badger State, how he balances living in New York and Wisconsin, and much more.  In addition, he spoke to how water, specifically water technology, is a passion in his life.  It is so encouraging to be a young water professional and have such a great role model to learn from.

blog#6, 16 June – by Noud Kuilder (Wageningen University)

Working and Milwaukee Brewers 

Today my Canadian neighbour served as a living alarm clock waking me up with the message that I’d overslept. To limit the damage to my reputation I hurried to the 7-Eleven to grab some breakfast before heading to the bus. Surviving in the US without a car proves quite a challenge but luckily our American participants brought their motorised vehicles. Thomas was getting breakfast as well and, conveniently, offered me a ride. This shows that bad behaviour pays off since if I would have got up early I would end up in the bus together with all the other plebs and now I was chilling in the Chevy blasting some hip-hop.


With the help of a coffee the size of a small aquarium I’m ready for a new day. I need the help since a big part of last night was a real American classic. It starting with a barbecue at the car park next to the Miller stadium and ended in a gay-friendly karaoke bar. Everything in between consisted of the good-old Miller Time®. I sincerely enjoyed a boring baseball game with the ninth inning erasing the 0 of the score board for the Milwaukee Brewers, but to no vain, the Kansas City Royals left the Badger state with their heads held high.

It’s not all fun and games and actual work has to be done. After the bombardment of information from the speed-dating session with the exports a plan had to be put together. The outline is clear and the goals are set. I feel confident that my team can come up with a good solution to the challenge of getting food waste disposers installed into Dutch kitchens.

The organisers of Wetskills not only pushes to do personal development on a professional level but on a social level as well.

DSCN4463 DSCN4459

Teams during the Action Plan discussion

blog#5, 15 June – by Koos Bok (Earth Surface and Water, Utrecht University)

Experts say wut?!

Our first real work day. The previous days were about teambuilding, and sure we did have lot of fun together. Today however was different, this was our first real work day.

The day started off with us taking the wrong bus, whilst forgetting to look out for Tijmen (he missed the bus), and getting soaked during a long walk (remember: wrong bus!). But we got there in time, so that’s nice. Which does not say much since we have always arrived in time thus far. Anyhow, our destination was the Global Water Center at 247 Freshwater Way, Milwaukee (look it up!). It houses the Water Council which seeks to establish the Milwaukee region as the World Water Hub for research, economic development and education, and they were kind enough to host our main introduction day.


After the much-needed coffee, the introduction day was opened by the president of the Water Council, Dean Amhaus, followed by the Consul General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Klaas van der Tempel. Having said the ‘thank-yous’, other pleasantries and acknowledgments about the need of countries and companies co-operating together, a few interesting talks followed. The talk of Russ Kashian, Professor of Economics illustrated the cold hard reality of translating every action and plan into costs and benefits, even water issues. Which is something that I, as a Dutchman, am opposed to. But in the end, I figured it was just a different approach to the same issues. He only has a different background and is from a different culture which needs to be accepted and taken into account dealing with these issues. Other participating experts (professors, people from the industry, etc) had experience with waste water treatment, nutrient issues, engineering, creating public awareness campaigns, business models, and environmental impacts of water regulations to name a few.

DSCN4437 DSCN4439

Every expert had a ten minute talk with each case study group, and that time is short! We needed every minute. It really was exhilarating to get as much knowledge as possible from an expert on your topic in that short amount of time. They really did their best to help the students out, sharing the contemporary problems and issues involved with the case subjects. But also discussing with us their views on our current ideas about our subject.

DSC03532 DSC03538

With all discussions and information in the back of our minds each group ran to a room to work on an Action Plan for the coming days. My group went to a cool conference room with a fancy smartboard and we planned the work needed to be done in the coming week, but foremost we talked about our subject with lively discussions. Our case study is about raising water quality awareness among greenhouse entrepreneurs in the Westland area (South of The Hague) since nutrient-rich waste water is discharged into adjacent ditches, instead of into the sewage system. Obviously this results in large environmental impact. Our job is to find an out-of-the-box solution to get the commitment of the entrepreneurs to achieve water quality standards established by the Hoogheemraadschap of Delfland (local Waterboard Authority).

Tomorrow we will continue with our work on the case studies. And for the evening we’ve got a baseball game planned! The Milwaukee Brewers vs the Kansas City Royals! With HAPS beer and even more badgers. Just the things you see here every day.

blog#4, 14 June – by Ferris Zahlan (Ryerson University)

Sunday Funday

Sunday morning started in the best of ways. It started with a nice sleep in, something very much needed from being on our feet the entire day before and the ‘team building’ events which followed in the same evening. The first event of the day brought us to the MillerCoors brewery in Milwaukee, because everyone enjoys drinking beer at noon. But in all seriousness, Sunday might not have been the best day for a brewery tour as it was not in operation, DSC03451so sights of the assembly line workers and bottling processes were not seen. However, our spirits were high, our feet were well rested and we shared many laughs. Perhaps the best of these chuckles came at the tour guides expense, when she referred to Wisconsin hops as ‘WiscAnsin hAps.’ The American accent was ridiculed (jokingly,
of course) by the Netherlands students as well as the Canadians. We are just fortunate our American teammates were able to laugh with us! At the end of the tour, we learned that it was indeed MILLERTIME, a phrase soon to become repeated for the remainder of the day. After several surprisingly large beer samples, we continued on with our day with an especially big grin across our faces.

Now, transportation to our next event, which was a tour of the Milwaukee sewage treatment facility, was slightly miscalculated. Our very kind American students, Katie and Matthew, agreed to drive from the brewery (oh don’t you worry, there was little MILLERTIME for them) to pick up pizza and meet the Photo 2015-06-14, 2 54 43 PMrest of us at the treatment facility with the food. However, the bus route taken by the rest of us only brought us what seemed like miles away from facility. After an hour of walking UNDER THE INTERSTATE along a construction sight in the hot hot sun, we found ourselves parched and starving. Needless to say, the pizza was made short work of upon our arrival. The tour was extremely educational, and for most of us whom only had theoretical knowledge of the processes used to clean water, it was great to personally witness the industrial applications. Our selfless tour guide volunteered to come in on her only day off of the entire week to lead us around the facility in hardhats and safety glasses.

Sunday ended with all the students resting around the common area of the residence, where stories (and just a little MILLERTIME) was shared. Sunday truly was Funday.

blog#3, 13 June – by Jessica de Koning (Utrecht University)

Adjusting- Second breakfast in the US

Buns and clementines on a Hollywood style party bus. After the ride to Madison involving spontaneous Viking games, we are still heavily jetlagged.  In Madison, we are sent off for a scavenger hunt thatIMG_0780 leads most of us right to the heart of the city’s Colectivo Coffee Shop – of course, to discuss our strategies for the hunt… After our eyes are recharged by coffee and adjusted to the light outside the party bus, the impressive Capitol in the center of the large square gets to our attention. At the stalls of the famous weekend Farmer’s Market surrounding the Capitol, most of us are relieved to spot our first vegetables in the US. We wander around scavenging and hunting while enjoying fresh cucumbers, asparagus, sugar snaps and strawberries. We are acquainted with Gertrude the Cow, historic butter churns, and are reintroduced to HAPS!! (this time in the shape of a giant mascot costume).

IMG_0811 IMG_0847

With my senses still blurred by tiredness, we enter the Capitol that is shIMG_0923own to us by an elder lady with classic American charm. In every room we find the comfort of chairs of an ever increasing level of fanciness. Apart from this, the history and architecture of the building are very impressive. Its different types of geological species from all around the world were assembled to form the building within only 11 years of this early twentieth century project. As could be expected, the State’s ubiquitous mascot, the badger, is not hiding within this precious building, but proudly exposed within the plentiful murals and above the gates. After the tour, we crawl to the shore of Lake Mendota with our last breaths to see a little more of the city. We are flooded with several stereotypes, including: popcorn stores, color-themed weddings and coffee-to-go all over the place.

IMG_0982 IMG_0979

The second brewery of this weekend is where we have our dinner, followed by a cheerful party bus ride back to the campus. Although having planned on going to bed early, I decide to hit the Seven Eleven for a sec to get some acceptable breakfast. After a massive detour, a thunder storm and two hours later, I arrive back at the North Tower of the residence with at least some yoghurt and wheat bread. All in all I mostly had to use this second day of US adventures to adjust to the new circumstances. However, many days of awesomeness are to come. I’m sure of that.

blog#2, 12 June – by Alisa Doornhof (Sustainable Development at the Utrecht University)

HAPS!! and badgers…

Ok, so I just had an 18 hour travel including two transfers, I was awake for more than 24 hours, I couldn’t sleep more than 6 hours, I was tired and it was a few more minutes to the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee… I was so excited see my fellow Dutchies and to meet the non-Dutch participants! I wanted to know what my room looks like and who my roommates are! Looking forward to the great teambuilding events additionally, I was happy to arrive at the university and to learn that our first teambuilding exercise entailed a small trip to the Beer Hall for some Fish and Fry.  It was a big hall with large tables at which 16 people can be seated. We enjoyed live country music and of course: Fish and Fry. Here we got to learn a bit more about the very cultural activities: the art, science and pleasure of beer drinking. We were acquainted with different types of beer involving different types of HAPS!! …not be confused with ‘hops’.

DSC_0232 DSC_0239[1]

Insider or (jealous) outsider, one can easily imagine that this was a fun start of the Milwaukee Wetskills experience. Our way back to the university was a story apart. Somewhere along the way, before encountering the liquor store, we had to cross a bridge. Just after the bridge we encountered a playground of swings beneath the parallel highway bridge. Even though, we have an average age of +/-25, we could have been easily mistaken for happy teenagers (see photo’s). As we went on in the early dusk of what have been an exciting but grey day, across a liquor store that I might have mentioned before, some of us even noticed the appearance of a badger…

DSCN4320 IMG_0767

blog#1, 2 June 2015  – by Salomeh Chegini (Ryerson University)

Word of a Wetskills-Alumni, joining Wetskills again!

Hi everybody. My Name is Salomeh Chegini and I am PhD student in Environmental Applied Science and Management from Ryerson University in Canada.

The team of Salomeh @Work during the BrainHurricane in Toronto

This is the second time that I have selected as a Wetskills participant and I am so glad to have another chance to be part of this wonderful challenge. The first one was last year (2014) in Toronto, Canada and the second one is this year in Milwaukee, USA. The Wetskill challenge is about the importance of water and its management. With participants from the Netherland, US and Canada we were a wonderful group to come up with great solutions for different case studies. All about big challenges in Water issue.

Group picture of Wetskills-Canada 2014, taken at the RC Harris Plant in Toronto

It was really an amazing experience for all of us to be part of Wetskills Canada 2014 and I believe that we will never forget it. Wetskill is not just about getting new fabulous technical experiences, but also about making new friends with different culture and nationality, but with a common vote; “let’s work together to make our planet a better place to live”. It was a lesson that I learned from Wetskills.

In wetskills just one team will be selected as a winner, but I believe that all of us are winners and that’s why I am ready to do it again and by my new friends. So let’s try to make a better world all together!



Recent posts

More news