Hutchinson, Ka. – Corps of Engineers staff from Tulsa and Kansas City Districts came together 9-18 September in Hutchinson Kansas for the Kansas State Fair. The fair afforded them a great opportunity to educate the public on the importance of water safety and wearing life jackets when on or near the water.
Instead of handing out paper water safety quizzes, this year the quiz was taken electronically via QR code on their smart phones. The technology, brought to life by the national USACE innovations team and capstone students at Southwestern Oklahoma State University, lowered the need for printing a lot of paper making this a lot more ecologically friendly.
“I am proud to be part of a team that creates new experiences like this for our recreating public,” said Jason Knight, natural resource specialist Tulsa District operations division. Knight is a founding member of the innovations team which has worked hand in hand with capstone students at Southwestern Oklahoma State University to bring the QR code technology to life.
With each scan of the QR code, fair attendees were taken to a google doc page with a five-question quiz. Quiz questions were meant to educate and inform people of the dangers of swimming alone, the importance of wearing life jackets and where to find life jacket loaner boards at USACE projects.
Before closing out the quiz there was a place to give your zip code, how many people were in the group and comments giving people an opportunity to give feedback on their experience.
“This technology was also a quick way for USACE staff to gather information on number of people reached,” said Knight. “The code was scanned 3,263 times for a total of 13,839 visitors to the booth.”
The public was very open and accepting of the new process. Comments received were complimentary, with people being thankful for the work USACE does educating the public on the importance of water safety and wearing their life jackets. Many people were surprised to find out about the life jacket loaner board program, so this was a successful way to get this message out to the public.
“This was a great experience, and the hours flew by,” said Prag Mahajan Tulsa District civil engineer. “It went by so quickly; I did not know when it was evening and closing time.”
Tulsa District Cost Engineer Christine Morgan worked the booth for the first-time volunteering for a one-day shift. She was excited to go to the fair and thought it would be fun to see and talk with people in a capacity other than her regular job duties.
“I did not anticipate the sheer number of people that came through the line and shared their heartfelt thanks for what we do for them on a daily basis,” said Morgan. “The people that came to talk to us and shared stories of water scares, losses, and the impacts to the community really made me think about my job differently.”
“In one word working the booth is overwhelming,” said Tulsa District Safety Specialist David Ford “but it was a great way to educate a lot of people on water safety.”
This was the 40th year for staff to participate in the fair.