25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act!



On July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law. Iowa’s former senator, Tom Harkin, wrote the bill and Iowa City has held a celebration every year since then. The University of Iowa Council on Disability Awareness has planned a number of events to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the signing of the ADA into law. This year’s celebration is scheduled to take place on the Pedestrian Mall, Saturday, July 25th from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Tara Fall, an Iowa native who now lives in California, is the keynote speaker and will speak at 1:30 p.m. She had a stroke while undergoing surgery for seizures when she was 27 years old. She now has prosopagnosia – “face-blindness.” She is the author of “Brainstorming: Functional Lessons from a Dysfunctional Brain.” Saturday’s festivities will also include music, dance, and booths.

Mobility disabilities often cause the person to look passive and dependent which reduces their opportunities for constructive engagement. ADA mobility requirements include ramps, accessible parking, and drinking fountains. But, it also has requirements for such varied public places as amusement parks, golf courses, children’s play areas, fishing piers and more. Assistive Technologies (AT) are continually being developed and refined for a wide-range of mobility needs and include wheelchairs, hearing aids, prosthesis and Voice Output Communication Aid (VOCA). When using AT a person with mobility impairments is better able to interact with the environment and the people around them, thus making them less dependent on others.

Physical limitations often includes the need for computer adjustments. For those with difficulties managing a mouse there are joysticks and trackballs. Eye trackers can also take the place of a computer mouse, and keyboards can be enlarged or color-coded. Websites can be difficult to navigate for many differing disabilities. Text-to-Speech can help those with visual impairments. Those with auditory challenges are unable to listen to audio-only recordings, or audio-visual recordings with no closed captioning or transcript available. The Web Accessibility Initiative has resources for people with disabilities, and those making and implementing policies.


Universal Design (UD) is the process of making things safer, easier and more convenient for everyone. UD addresses the wide spectrum of human abilities and designs for that diversity, thus making things easier for everyone. For instance, installing the ramps on the corners of sidewalks for people in wheelchairs has also benefited people pushing strollers. For a fascinating look at how UD is making life easier, we have Universal design: solutions for a barrier-free living.

There is a wide-range of abilities and needs for those with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Video games using storytelling have been shown to help teach social skills to those with ASD. Video games have also been used in cognitive therapy for brain injury, physical therapy, and pain management. For more information on the use of video games with ASD check out Assistive technology research, practice, and theory, and for work with brain injuries refer to Assistive technologies and computer access for motor disabilities.

FingerReader, wearable interface for reading on-the-go. MMIT Media Lab.
FingerReader, wearable interface for reading on-the-go. MIT Media Lab.

Assistive Technologies are also used for reading text. The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity has information on which popular tablets are best for people with dyslexia. For those needing help accessing printed text there are devices such as the FingerReader.

For more information on human/computer interaction, inclusive design for communities, transportation and everyday objects, stop in and check out our many resources!



Subject Guide: ADA and Universal Design. July 13, 2015. University of Iowa Lichtenberger Engineering Library.

Woman suffering from face blindness can’t recognize her own reflection. Nov. 4, 2013. NYDailyNews.com

Assistive Technology research, practice, and theory. HV1569.5 .A85 2014
Assistive Technology research, practice, and theory. HV1569.5 .A85 2014

Rhoads, Marcela Abadi. The ADA companion guide : understanding the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidlines (ADAAG). 2010. Hoboken, NF : John Wiley. Engineering Library KF5709.3 H35 R48 2010.

Assistive technologies and computer access for motor disabilities. 2014. Hershey, PA : Medical Information Science Reference. Engineering Library HV1569.5 .A87 2014.

Assistive technology research, practice, and theory. 2014.  Hershey, PA : Medical Information Science Reference. Engineering Library HV1569.5 .A85 2014.

How people with disabilities use the web: overview. Aug. 1, 2012. W3C, Web Accessibility Initiative.

Herwig, Oliver. Universal design : solutions for a barrier-free living. 2008. Basel ; Boston : Birkhäuser. Engineering Library NA2545 .A3 H47 2008

Assistive technology: a Q&A with Roy Shilkrot about the FingerReader. Sept. 3, 2014.  Belo Miguel Cipriani.

A dyslexic student”s perspective: which tablet features work best for dyslexics. 2015. The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity.

Other Resources:

Stephen Hawking: a brief history of Mine-TV review. Dec. 9, 2013. The Guardian.

Speech, image, and language processing for human computer interaction : multi-modal advancements  2012. Hershey, PA : Information Science Reference. Engineering Library QA76.9 H85 S654 2012

Disability informatics and web accessibility for motor limitations. 2014. Hershey, PA : Medical Information Science Reference. Engineering Library HV1569.5 .D53 2014

Designing web accessibility for a beautiful web. 2010. [Berkeley, CA] : New Riders. Engineering Library Circulation Desk Video Record 29966 DVD

ADA national network. U.S. Department of Education,  and National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Network. Date accessed: July 24, 2015

Celebrating access today: 25th anniversary year of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Jan. 30, 2015. The United States Department of Justice.

The Science of Bicycles and the Joy of RAGBRAI!


This year the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) will stop in Coralville on July 24. RAGBRAI XLIII began in Sioux City on July 19 and will finish in Davenport on July 25. There are 6 overnight stops along the RAGBRAI route and the longest day of riding is the first day – from Sioux City to Storm Lake, a distance of just over 74 miles.

The first RAGBRI was held in 1973, and started as a challenge between the Des Moines Register feature writer/copy editor John Karras and Donald Kaul, author of the Des Moines Register’s “Over the Coffee” column. The ride was opened to a “few friends,” i.e. the public. Fortunately, the turnout was light, because no camping arrangements – or any other types of arrangements – had been made for the riders. The number of riders varied along the route, but 114 riders made the entire distance that first year.  One of the interesting people the ride attracted was Clarence Pickard of Indianola. The 83-year-old showed up for that first ride with a used ladies Schwinn. He rode all the way to Davenport, including the 110-mile trek from Des Moines to Williamsburg on a 100°+ day. For the ride he wore a long-sleeved shirt, trousers, woolen long underwear and a silver pith helmet.

Because there so much national and international media coverage, the number of riders increased quickly. In order to make the ride more manageable, it is now limited to 8,500 registered riders each year.  Since RAGBRAI began 326,650 riders have pedaled over 19,000 miles. 780 towns have been visited since its inception.

Whether you want to hit the road on RAGBRAI, or simply want to cruise around town for transportation and exercise, the type of bike you purchase makes a difference. Where you plan to ride, with whom will you be riding, your budget, and your previous experience all make a difference when choosing a bike.  Mountain bikes are great for off-road and single track trails, but they are heavier, have thicker tires and are generally slower and require more effort. Road bikes are for paved roads, paths and smooth unpaved paths. They are lighter and designed more for speed. There are also hybrid and comfort bikes, tandems, recumbents, commuters and cruisers. If you have questions about specific bikes, RAGBRAI has a forum where information is available from experienced riders.

Bicycle components

The bicycle is a simple machine, but has many components and it is always a good idea to learn what each component is called. There are 10 bicycle shops that now participate in RAGBRAI, but it doesn’t hurt to know basic maintenance for your own equipment. Learning to repair tire punctures yourself can keep you from being stranded by the side of the road whenever and wherever you ride. Bike Repair & Maintenance for Dummies has a section on what to look for in a pre-ride inspection, how to clean and take care of your bike after your ride, and items that should be included in an emergency tool kit – including duct tape!

Gladiator Chopper


Interested in building your own custom bike? Bike, scooter, and chopper projects for the evil genius has the information you need to create your own Gladiator Chopper, 3-wheel trikes for adults and kids, stunt bikes, and electric-powered bikes!


Electric bikes, or e-bikes, are becoming more popular. A modified or custom bike frame that has pedals but also and electric motor gives the rider the option to pedal or use the power of a battery and motor drive system. They are less expensive than gas-powered scooters and are safer than scooters and motorcycles. A 1 square foot solar panel is enough to power an eBike for 3,100 miles.

There are also luxury bikes – the Monanate Luxury Gold bike has 24 carat gold leaf and 11,000 Swarovski crystals. The fenders are steam-bent wood and there is python leather on the handlebars, seat and around the lock. There are only 10 Luxury Gold bikes in existence and cost about $33,000. There are many beautiful and practical ways to store your bicycle, too. The Pedal Pod by British Designer Tamasine Osher, is sold walnut and is the perfect place to store your bike and accessories.

Montante Luxury Gold. The Bike Book. Engineering Library FOLIO TL410 .B54 2012


Pedal Pod, Tamasine Osher Design. The Bike Book Engineering Library FOLIO TL410 .B54 2012







Stop by all the Coralville RAGBRAI activities on Friday and if you find yourself intrigued by the world of cycling we have resources on everything from Effective cycling, The bicycle builder’s handbookto Bicycling science: ergonomics and mechanics.




Let’s Ride. 2015. City Bikes.

Drinkell, Peter. The bike owner’s handbook. 2012. London : Cicada Books. Engineering Library TL430 .D75 2012.

The bike book : lifestyle, passion, design. Engineering Library FOLIO TL410 .B54 2012

Bailey, Dennis. Bike repair & maintenance for dummies. 2009. Hoboken, N.J.  : John Wiley. Engineering Library TL430 .B35 2

What is an electric bike? 2015. Electric Bike Review.

The eBike book. 2013. Kempen, Germany : New York : teNeues Pub Group. Engineering Library TL437.5 .E44 E35 2013

Graham, Brad. 2008. Bike, scooter, and chopper gadgets for the evil genius. New York : McGraw-Hill. Engineering Library TL400 .G689 2008.

The bike book : lifestyle, passion, design. 2012. Kempen, Germany : teNeues. Engineering Library FOLIO TL410 .B54 2012.


Forester, John. 2012. Effective Cycling. Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press. Engineering Library GV1041 .F67 2012.

Wiley, Jack. 1980. The bicycle builder’s bible. Blue Ridge Summit, PA : Tab Books. Engineering Library TL410 .W53

Whitt, Frank Rowland. Bicycling science : ergonomics and mechanics. 1974. Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press. Engineering Library TL410 .W48

Downs, Todd. 2010. The bicycling guide to complete bicycle maintenance & repair : for road & mountain bikes. [Emmaus, PA] : Rodale, [New York] : Distributed by Macmillan. Engineering Library TL430 .D68 2010

Do You Remember the Typewriter? New Exhibit Explores the History!

The majority of the younger generations may have seen typewriters, but few have actually used them. They weren’t lucky enough to experienc the “joy” of using a typewriter eraser or liquid paper to correct those inevitable mistakes. Our new exhibit explores the fascinating history of the typewriter.

In Inventor and inventions, we learn that in 1714, Englishman Henry Mill, patented the idea of “an artificial machine or method for the impressing or transcribing of letters singly or progressively on after another.” It was proposed to take the place of slow and often illegible handwriting. Most of the early attempts, however, were actually slower than handwriting and some were as large as a piano.

The Writing Ball of Malling-Hansen
The Writing Ball of Malling-Hansen

There are conflicting reports about the earliest working models of the typewriter. One report says that the earliest was made in Italy by Giuseppe Pellegrino Turri, not only a nobleman, but also a skilled mechanic. He invented carbon paper to provide ink to the typewriter. Not much is known about this early typewriter, but 16 letters that were written on it are preserved in a museum in Reggio Emilia. The legend is that in the early nineteenth century he built it for his love, Countess Carolina Fantoni da Fivizzono, who had gone blind. However, another version of the legend is that the earliest typewriter was invented in 1802 by Agostino Fantoni from Fivizzano, to help his blind sister. That legend says that Turri simply improved on the machine and then invented carbon paper. We do know that in 1865 the first commercially produced typewriter was developed, and in 1870 it was patented and put into production by Rasmus Mallin-Hansen, a Danish pastor.

In 1868, Christopher Sholes and his associate Carlos Glidden secured a patent for the first commercially successful typewriter. Sholes and Glidden sold their patent to Densmore and Yost, who made an agreement with E. Remington and Sons (famous for sewing machines at that time). In 1873, Remington began production of its first typewriter. It had a QWERTY keyboard – the keyboard still in use today. The typewriter came with a foot pedal (like sewing machines) which controled the carriage returns. The QWERTY keyboard was developed to slow typists down. The most often used letters were spaced far apart and the slower speed helped correct the problem of jamming. The Remington No. 2 typewriter was introduced in 1878 and it came with the option of upper and lower case letters.


A Stenotype Keyboard

A stenotype was patented in 1895 and is a special shorthand machine that is used not only in court reporting, but also in closed captioning. The trained stenographer must be able to type at speeds up to 225 words per minute with a high degree of accuracy.


A patent for an electric typewriter was filed by Thomas Edison in 1872, but the first workable model didn’t come out until the 1920s. Typewriters continued to improve and develop, moving from the early electric typewriters to the more modern “IBM Selectric” typewriter which used a ball rather than the earlier type bars. There was also the “daisy wheel” – a disk with the letters and numbers stamped on the outer edges. From there the typewriter evolved into the electronic typewriter which had a memory where text could be stored.

Scytale. Oldest known military ciphering method.
Scytale. Oldest known military ciphering method.

The earliest known military ciphering tool, the Scytale, was used more than 2500 years ago. A messenger wore a belt – a stretch of leather- which had characters written on it. They were seemingly random and could only be deciphered when the leather was wrapped around the correct size piece of wood. There is a replica of a Scytale in our exhibit – stop by and see if you can decipher the message!


Photo of a genuine Marine 4-rotor Enigma encoding/decoding machine, from Bletchley Park, England
Photo of a Marine 4-rotor Enigma encoding/decoding machine, Bletchley Park, England


Cryptography and ciphering have gone through many transformations since the Scytale. At the end of World War I, German engineer Arthur Scherbius invented Enigma – an electro-mechanical rotor cipher machine. It was adopted by the military of several countries, most notably Nazi Germany. When it was first developed, the cipher was changed every few months which meant the codes were often cracked. However, when World War II broke out, the code was changed on a daily basis, making it nearly impossible to break. In 1940, codebreakers at Bletchley Park broke the code. They had created machines, called ‘bombes,’ which cracked the ‘Green Key’ – the administrative key for the German Army, and then they managed to crack the ‘Red Key,’ – used by Luftwaffe liaison officers coordinating air support for army units. It is said that breaking these codes shortened the war by at least 2 years. The Colossus, created by Alan Turing, was built to break another German encryption machine called the Lorenz cipher. The Colossus is the precursor to the modern computer.

There are three typewriters in our exhibit – dating from the early 1900s to the 1960s.  We have both an Underwood #5 and a Remington Noiseless from the 30s and a Smith Corona Coronet from the 50s-60s. The Smith Corona is interesting because it is electric, but still has a manual carriage return.  There are several photographs from the 1950s showing women in Jessup Hall using typewriters. Come see the typing pool and what were probably state-of-the-art typewriters.  Thank you to the Department of Special Collections and University Archives for providing copies of  these photographs. The photos are part of the F.W. Kent Collection of Photographs. Thanks also, goes to Lindsay Vella for graciously lending her typewriters for this exhibit!

Fun Facts:

Just for fun!

The Typewriter. Composed by Leroy Anderson, October 9, 1950.  Performed June 12, 2011 by Voces para la Paz; soloist: Alfredo Anaya.

  • Fastest Typist in the World is Barbara Blackburn. Her top speed was recorded at 212 words per minute. She appeared on the David Letterman Show in 1985.
  • Mohammed Khurshid Hussain set the World’s Record for Fastest Nose Typing.
  • A QWERTY keyboard takes 15 keystrokes to type “court reporting.” A court reporter using the Stenograph keyboard takes 3 keystrokes.
  • Earliest known cryptography is found in the non-standard hieroglyphs carved into monuments in ancient Egypt – as far back as 1900 BC.
  • Court reporters do not listen or type words or listen for context – they only use phonetics.
  • George K. Anderson of Memphis, TN, patented the typewriter ribbon on 9/14/1886.
  • Every typewriter has its own individual pattern of type – like a fingerprint. Special forensic agents were used in police departments to identify typewriters used in blackmail and other criminal activities.
  • Mark Twain was the first author to submit a typewritten manuscript to his publisher.
  • Keyboard fashion fun!
Kate Spade All Typed Up Clyde Satchel
Kate Spade All Typed Up Clyde Satchel
Typewriter Key Bracelet
Typewriter Key Bracelet



Typewriter Necklace
Typewriter Necklace



McCorquodale, Duncan, editor. 2009. Inventors and inventionsLondon : Black Dog Engineering Library FOLIO T48 .K58 2009

Computer keyboard. 2015. History of Computers.

Langone, John. The new how things work: everyday technology explained. 2004. Washington, D.C. : National Geographic Society. Engineering Library FOLIO T47 .L2923 2004

Scytale. 2014. Cryptool-Online.

Breaking Enigma. 2015. Bletchley Park.

Was the first computer a ‘Bombe’? Computer Science for Fun. Queen Mary, University of London. Date accessed: July 1, 2015.

Other Resources:

History of Smith Corona. 2015. Smith Corona Corporation.

A brief history of typewriters. The Classic Typewriter Page. Dated accessed: July 6, 2015.

History of the computer keyboard. 2015. About Money. About.com

Typewriters. 2015. About Money. About.com

New Horizons Reaches Pluto, July 14, 2015!

New Horizons is launched.
New Horizons is launched.

Do you remember where you were on January 19, 2006? On that date, at 1:00 p.m. Central Standard time, (CST) the Atlas 5 rockets shot the New Horizons spacecraft towards space! The probe left earth at about 36,250 miles per hour – the fastest ever for a NASA mission. In a post-launch interview, the principal investigator for New Horizons, Alan Stern, said, “The United States has a spacecraft on its way to Pluto, the Kuiper Belt and on to the stars.” He continued, “I have July 14, 2015 emblazoned on my calendar.”

Tomorrow, July 14, 2015, at 6:49 a.m. CST, New Horizons will fly within 7,800 miles of Pluto’s surface. It will be passing Pluto at 30,800 miles per hour and it will only take about 8 minutes to fly past. Cameras aboard the spacecraft with have resolved features on Pluto’s surface as small as the ponds of Central Park.  Shortly after New Horizons passes Pluto, NASA scientists will receive the final picture that was taken of Pluto before the fly-by. It takes nearly 4.5 hours to transmit signals sent between Earth and New Horizons. Photos from New Horizons will be delayed because during the fly-by all of its resources will be oriented towards Pluto. On the day of the fly-by only engineering data will come down. On the 15th the science data will begin again. The earliest photos of Pluto are scheduled to be released around 2 p.m. CST on Wednesday, the 15th. It will take nearly 16 months for all of the photos and scientific data to be transmitted to Earth.

Pluto has been the subject of some controversy over the last few years.  In 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) reclassified Pluto as a dwarf planet rather than a planet.  The IAU redefined the definition of “planet,” and Pluto no longer fits the criteria. Some feel this is a “demotion” for Pluto. Dave Jewitt, however, believes it can be considered a promotion since our perception has been transformed. And, in The 50 most extreme places in our solar system David Baker and Todd Radtcliff note that Pluto is not a planet, but is now a dwarf planet, a Kuiper Belt object (one of the largest), a Trans-Neptunian Object (TNO), and a plutoid (a classification for dwarf planets that are also TNOs).

And, no, Pluto was not named after the Disney character. On March 13, 1930, the discovery of the ninth planet was officially announced and suggestions for names came from all over the world. The winning name came from a young schoolgirl, Venetia Burney, from Oxford, England. She thought that because the planet was so far away from the Sun, in its own dark realm, it should be named after the Roman god of the underworld – Pluto.

Riding aboard the NASA spacecraft are ashes of the late astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered the planet in 1930 at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. Tombaugh died January 17, 1997, nine years to the day of New Horizons first launch attempt. The launch was delayed twice due to weather.

Pluto and its moons, Charon, Nix, and Hydra. taken by the Hubble telescope in 2006. Charon is the closest to Pluto and Nix is the furthest away.

On December 6, 2014 at 8:53 p.m. (CST), New Horizons came out of a nearly 9-year hibernation.  In the nearly 3 billion mile trip, New Horizons spent 2/3 of its life in 18 separate hibernation periods. The hibernation periods lasted from 36 to 202 days and helped preserve fuel and the spacecraft’s components. The on-board flight computer did not hibernate and would send a weekly “beacon-status tone” to let NASA know it was still on its way.

The New Horizons engineers programmed a “wake-up” sequence for December 6, 2014 at 2 p.m. CST. Once that happened, the spacecraft sent a signal to NASA indicating that the power was up and running.  New Horizons was more than 2.9 billion miles from earth and the signal took 4 hours and 26 minutes to reach the Deep Space Station in Australia.

Pluto has the most elongated path of any planet and it resembles a comet more than a planet. It is a very slow moving planet and it travels a tremendous distance, therefore, a single orbit of Pluto around the sun lasts at least 248 years.

This image of Pluto was taken by LORRI and received on July 8, 2015.
This image of Pluto was taken by LORRI and was received on July 8, 2015.

Since New Horizons won’t go into Pluto’s orbit, it will keep going – heading beyond Pluto to visit more objects within the Kuiper Belt. Information from these encounters will be similar to that received about Pluto – helping us learn about the composition and atmospheres of these rocks. Stern notes that this Wednesday, July 15th, 2015, is the 50th anniversary of the day Mariner 4 flew by Mars. New Horizons will collect 5,000 times as much data as that mission did.


Go outside tomorrow at 6:49, look to the heavens and think of the historic trip of New Horizons – 9 1/2 years across 3 billion miles of space.



Reaching for Pluto: NASA launches probe to Solar System’s edge. January 19, 2006. Space.com

Coming in 2015: the first spacecraft encounter with Pluto.  December 8, 2014. Popular Science.

The 50 Most Extreme Places in our Solar System. Engineering Library QB502 .B345 2010
The 50 Most Extreme Places in our Solar System. Engineering Library QB502 .B345 2010

Weintraub, David A. 2007. Is Pluto a planet? a historical journey through the solar system Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University.

Baker, David. 2010. The 50 most extreme places in our solar system. London, England ; Cambridge Mass. Belknap Press of Harvard University.

Bond, Peter. 2007. Distant Worlds : milestones in planetary exploration. New York : Copernicus, in association with Praxis Plublishing, Ltd.

New Horizons spies Charon orbiting Pluto. August 7, 2014. NASA

Why New Horizons’ closest approach to Pluto will be just 8 minutes longJuly 13, 2015.  Los Angeles Times : Science Now.


Other Resources:

Kuiper BeltJuly 13, 2015. Wikipedia.org.

Tyson, Neil deGrasse. 2009. The Pluto files : the rise and fall of America’s favorite planet. New York : W.W. Norton.

Elkins-Tanton, Linda T. 2011. Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, and the outer solar system. New York : Facts on File.

Jones, Barrie William. 2010. Pluto : sentinel of the outer solar system. New York : Cambridge University Press.

Interactive Online Tool for Iowa Flood Information!

As rainy as this spring has been, you may want to learn how to check out the flood conditions in your area.

Almost everyone knows that floodplains are the lowlands and relatively flat areas adjoining waterways that are subject to flooding.  Floodplains are, in fact, an extension of the water system.  Their natural function is to help move high water volumes downstream or to store the water until flooding subsides.  They provide a variety of functions including flood water storage, filtration and removal of water pollutants, channel stability and erosion control, wildlife habitat, beauty and recreational opportunities and stream baseflow. Building and developing on flood plains disrupts the ability of floodplains to perform these vital functions. Not to mention the danger that flooding causes to property, homes, and lives.

Designing the Sustainable Site. Heather Venhaus. Graphic page 121. Engineering Library NA9051 .V46 2012

We’ve heard of the 100-year-floodplain, but perhaps don’t know that it doesn’t mean that a flood will only occur every hundred years. Floodplains are classified by the likelihood of flooding in a given year. An elevation that has a 1% chance of being flooded each year is designated as a 100-year-floodplain. In fact, 100-year-floods (and floods of any designation) can occur in a relatively short period of time.  Since floods are not consistent in their timing, it can be easy to downplay or ignore the risks until it is too late to prevent damage. In Designing the sustainable site: integrated design strategies for small-scale sites and residential landscapes, Heather Venhaus discusses not only flooding, she includes information on sustainability options for air, water pollution, biodiversity, and more.

Floods are the most frequent of natural disasters and destructive floods occur world-wide: the Indus River basin in Pakistan in 2010; Queensland, Australia; South Africa; Sri Lanka; and the Philippines in late 2010 and early 2011. Other major floods also occurred in 2011: the earthquake-induced tsunami on the north-east coast of Japan; the Mississippi River; Pakistan; and Thailand, including Bangkok.

We here in southeast Iowa know about floods first-hand.  To help residents understand localized flooding, the University of Iowa Flood Center (IFC) has developed a new interactive, online tool to access local flood information.  The IFC is part of Hydroscience & Engineering (IIHR), a research institute at the UI College of Engineering. It is the nation’s first academic center devoted solely to the study of floods.

The Iowa Flood Information System (IFIS) includes access to current stream and river level data from 19 stream-stage sensors in Johnson County. IFIS provides information that can help Johnson County residents make more informed decisions for flood planning and mitigation. It will also alert community members in advance so they are better able to stay safe and minimize potential flood damage.

The user-friendly, online application displays up-to-the-minute community specific information on rainfall, stream levels, and more, including:

  • Iowa River flood inundation maps for Iowa City/Cedar Rapids
  • Real-time and historical data on water levels, gauge heights, and rainfall conditions
  • 2D and 3D interactive visualizations
  • Discharge levels at the Coralville Lake Reservoir

It is “a one-stop web-platform to access community-based flood conditions, forecasts, visualizations, inundation maps, flood-related data, information and applications.” The website has an informative video tutorial which will walk you through the many features available.

Be aware of the flood conditions near you – and stay safe!


Venhaus, Heather. 2012. Designing the sustainable site : integrated design strategies for small-scale sites and residential landscapes. Hoboken, N.J : John Wiley & Sons.

Jha, Abhas Kumar. 2012. Cities and flooding : a guide to integrated urban flood risk management for the 21st century. Washington, D.C. : World Bank.

Iowa Flood Center. 2015. University of Iowa.

Iowa Flood Information System. Iowa Flood Center. University of Iowa. Date accessed: June, 2015.


Price, Roland K. 2011. Urban hydroinformatics : data models, and decision support for integrated urban water management. London : IWA Publishing.

Brody, Samuel David. 2011. Rising waters : the causes and consequences of flooding in the United States. Cambridge, New York : Cambridge University Press.

Mambretti, S., editor. 2012. Flood risk assessment and management. Southampton ; Boston : WIT Press.