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Glocal Students Impress with Innovative Improvements

Sun-Jung Yum, Managing Editor

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In the midst of the madness of fall semester finals, 17 teams of CRLS students gathered with judges, community members, and politicians on January 17th to advertise their proposals for this year’s Glocal Challenge. All ideas for improving sustainable transportation in Cambridge were innovative, but the presentations were ultimately narrowed down to two winning teams: “Live Bus” and “Transportation Transformers.”

Team “Live Bus”—comprised of Ezra Rudel ’19, Max Katz-Christy ’19, Jessica Paul ’19, and Miles Taylor ’18—is focusing on improving transportation literacy. They hope to install thirteen iPads with real-time transit displays in windows of local businesses near bus stops.

By working with local businesses, their plan does not depend heavily on the MBTA or the city. “There’s not a lot of public available space, so [coming up with] that idea [of working with businesses] was difficult, but once we found it, it helped a lot,” explained Katz-Christy.

“Transportation Transformers” navigates another route, emphasizing bike transportation. Simon Simpson ’20, Lamisa Jahan ’18, Yousuf Syed ’20, Jeftaline Gay ’18, Alex Henriquez ’18, Rakeyah Ahsan ’18, and Sajid Ahsan ’20 propose a partnership between the City of Cambridge and Hubway—a local bicycle sharing system—that would allow for discounted student memberships.

“[Biking is] the most eco-friendly choice [for transportation], and since we have [protected] bike lanes now, it’s more safe,” explained Ahsan. The group hopes that their proposal will not just benefit the environment but also the health of students.

Both winning groups took home the grand prize: an all-expenses-paid trip in July of 2018 to Amsterdam, Germany, and the EF Global Student Leaders Summit in Berlin; $2000 in seed money; paid summer internships through the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program; and 25 community service hours each.

It’s going to be more important to have efficient and safe methods of transportation.”

The City, school, and EF Education First aimed to include a wide variety of judges, in order to have unbiased evaluations. “We had people from ZipCar; we had people from the state; we had people from the federal government; we had people from Hubway [and] Zagster; … we had somebody from the MBTA; we had people from all over,” explained Jennifer Lawrence, a Sustainability Planner for the City.

Three other finalist teams were also presented with the seed money, internship, and community service hours. Their ideas were extensive: an app that would display safe and efficient bike routes (Cam Tran), a more wheelchair-accessible Red Line (Wheeled Empowerment), and interactive touch screens at bus stops (Team TV).

Four out of these top five teams, however, had secretly been chosen during the semi-finals, where each team presented their proposals. Team TV was chosen by popular vote at the final exhibitionand all five were narrowed down to a winning two by a panel of judges.

Three honorable mention teams were also presented with the same opportunities, thanks to the City’s budget this year. All eight proposals will be implemented and updates can be found at cambridgema.gov/glocal.

“I’m excited to see how everyone’s ideas turn out when they’re implemented,” commented sophomore Annie MacBeth, a member of Cam Tran. “Transportation is an enormous part of all of our lives, and as the world’s population grows, it’s going to be more and more important to have efficient and safe methods of transportation,” she continued.

The Challenge has been held annually by EF, the City of Cambridge, and Cambridge Public Schools since 2011, allowing for students to address global issues, get involved in the community, and expand their education in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics).

“This project really is about creativity, it’s about teamwork,” explained Learning Community L Dean of Students Susie Van Blaricum, who worked with English teacher Marya Wegman to handle a lot of the logistics. “It’s not necessarily for people that really like science. It takes kids of every skill level, and ideas.”

This piece also appears in our February print edition.

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Glocal Students Impress with Innovative Improvements