Unbeatable Heroine of CEDD
The Dragon Boat Festival has just passed but the drumbeats can still be heard. In recent years, some government departments have formed teams to participate in dragon boat races. Dragon boating not only improves colleagues’ physical fitness, but also fosters team spirit and cooperation among them. This time, I have invited a female player from the Geotechnical Engineering Office (GEO) of the Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD) to share her feelings as a member of the department’s dragon boat team, and show us how to apply Artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques to landslide prevention and mitigation.
Dr KONG Wai-wah, Vickie, is a Geotechnical Engineer who joined the Government in 2015. At first, she joined the dragon boat team only for doing some exercise after work, but after a while she wanted to quit because paddling requires a high level of physical fitness. However, she has now successfully gone beyond herself and developed a strong interest in this sport, where she is by no means inferior to her male teammates in performance.
The “left-sided paddler” and drummer of the boat
Vickie is the left-sided paddler of the team who sits on the left side of the dragon boat paddling with her left hand. Sometimes she also serves as a drummer who hits the drum and calls out commands to keep the cadence of the teammates’ stroke rates so that the boat can move forward. Vickie participates in the departmental weekly training from March to October every year. She recalls that when she first received training, the boat did not seem to move ahead at all no matter how hard she paddled. It even caused muscle pain throughout her body, which made her feel like giving up. Subsequently, under the guidance of the coach, she was able to understand the paddling techniques, and along with enhanced physical training, she has managed to carry on with the sport.
Paddling side by side with passion
Dragon boating is a sport that requires strong teamwork. Every team member must paddle in sync with one another and stay focused in order to keep the boat sailing forward. Vickie says that her teammates are holders of different posts and did not know each other before joining the team. However, with mutual encouragement and support, they have been able to persist in training no matter how tired they are after work. During competition, everyone puts in the best efforts side by side in every single stroke to propel to the finish line. It may be this very passion that has enthralled her to team up with her teammates and fight together.
Demonstrating team spirit
At work, Vickie is a geotechnical engineer mainly responsible for research and development of new technologies that can improve the landslide prevention and mitigation work of the GEO to manage landslide risks associated with man-made slopes and natural terrain. Her work includes the application of such technologies as AI, deep learning and machine learning to landslide monitoring and warning systems. For example, through the use of AI, the office is trying to analyse the locations of landslides and surface outcrops of rocks on natural terrain shown in digital aerial photographs in order to assess the possibility of recurrence of landslides for proper risk management.
Vickie draws an analogy between her job and dragon boat racing, saying that both put an emphasis on team spirit because collaboration with different professionals is often required for each research project. However, as long as all parties involved share a common goal and work in concert together, maximum benefits can be achieved.
School Ambassador Programme
Apart from utilising top-notch technologies to improve landslide prevention and mitigation techniques, it is also important to heighten public awareness of disaster preparedness and prevention through public education. The GEO has launched the “School Ambassador Programme” this year and Vickie is one of the school ambassadors. So far, some 40 colleagues have visited more than 60 secondary schools to promote students’ knowledge about slope safety, landslide prevention, geology of Hong Kong, causes of landslides, etc. Overwhelming responses have been received from students. Moreover, the GEO will hold a competition named “AI Data Wizard – How many landslides?” in conjunction with other organisations at the end of this month. The competition will enable secondary school students to learn how to forecast landslide risks with AI in order to enhance their knowledge in this regard, and foster the development of a smart city at the same time.
With the onset of the rainy season in Hong Kong, continuous rainfall may trigger landslides. It is of vital importance to take proactive measures. The GEO has been conducting systematic studies on the landslide risks of natural terrain in Hong Kong. I am impressed that colleagues have channelled their passion and spirit for dragon boat racing into their work, and co-operate fully with people from different professional sectors to strive for landslide prevention and slope safety.
9 June, 2019