Tyne & Wear

Sunderland student Deborah Whittle draws on child game for flood scheme

Deborah Whittle Image copyright Sunderland University
Image caption Deborah Whittle's creation could now be put into production

Memories of a childhood game inspired a South Tyneside mother to create a potentially life-saving escape route from flash flooding.

Deborah Whittle designed a pop-up bridge made from plastic crates, which can be turned into a temporary road.

The idea has won the mother-of-two, from Cleadon, an Environment Agency award and could be put into production.

She said a bridge-building game played with empty crates in her parents' builders merchant yard inspired her.

The "Modular Raised Road" is based on a mini-scaffolding tower, which would allow most civilian vehicles, people and livestock to escape flash floods.

'Dragon's Den'

The design landed the Sunderland University business computing student first prize in the Environment Agency's Flash Flooding Challenge.

She said the idea came to her two years ago when she saw a motorist drive through a road which had been flooded and become stuck. Remembering the toughened plastic crates she used to play with, she came up with the Modular Raised Road and developed it with a team at the university.

She said: "With predictions that flash flooding could become more common, I think there could be a real need for the Modular Raised Road to be used to save lives and aid rescues."

Her university team leader Dr Susan Jones, a senior lecturer in digital media, said: "Deborah did a fantastic job and her presentation to the judges wouldn't have been out of place on Dragon's Den."

A spokeswoman for the Environment Agency said: "We were really impressed at the very high standard of Deborah's idea and those of the others who took part. This demonstrates the amount of amazing talent and the high calibre that we have in our universities today."

She said the agency was looking at attracting potential funding for the idea.

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