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Tackling public transportation challenges at EF’s Glocal Challenge

Tackling public transportation challenges at EF’s Glocal Challenge

For those of us living in cities, public transportation is something we deal with regularly. This is particularly true for students who rely on public transit to get to and from school every day. The impact that transportation has on society made choosing the topic for the sixth annual EF Glocal Challenge at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School (CRLS) easy.

EF Education First created the EF Glocal Challenge in 2012 in partnership with CRLS and the City of Cambridge to inspire students to develop solutions to the city’s biggest challenges. Glocal (global + local) is a first-of-its-kind public-private collaboration focused on improving students STEM skills while also positively impacting the local community. In years past, students covered topics like food sustainability and energy conservation, and in November 2017, they were challenged to improve transportation in Cambridge by 2020.

Over two months of competition, nearly 100 students worked in 20 teams to develop solutions to transportation challenges they see in their community every day. They attended workshops and were coached and mentored by local academics, practitioners and entrepreneurs, culminating with a student exhibition at EF’s North American headquarters on Wednesday, January 17th. A panel of judges then announced the five finalists, who took part in a pitch-off in front of a large audience of EF staff and local community members. The excitement in the room was palpable!

All five finalists won internships with the City of Cambridge as well as seed money to get their projects off the ground. Grand prize winners Live Bus and Transportation Transformers also received scholarships to attend the EF Global Leadership Summit in Berlin this July, which will focus on the future of technology.

Here are the innovative transportation ideas from the top five finalists:

  • Live Bus plans to make it easier and more convenient to take transit by mounting real-time transit displays in local business windows facing bus stops. The displays will provide real time updates and information on when the bus will arrive and fare information. These would be especially beneficial to members of the community that do not have access to smartphones.
  • Transportation Transformers aims to dramatically increase bike usage among students at CRLS by partnering with the City to promote and offer discounted Hubway memberships for students, a healthier and more environmentally friendly option than public transportation. The seed money will go towards offering bike safety seminars and helmets to students who will be biking more frequently.
  • Cam Tran will use its seed money to create an app that will populate user data and produce the safest bike routes around Cambridge. Their hope is that this will encourage more people to bike, since it will help people biking to navigate the roads safely and seamlessly.
  • Wheeled Empowerment plans to make the Red Line more accessible to people with disabilities. They propose placing convertible seating that will fold up and provide locking mechanisms to hold wheelchairs in place when necessary. The seats will be made of recyclable plastic and will follow models in other cities that people can use independently.
  • Team TV would like to create better transportation visuals within bus stop. The issue that they are tackling is that people either do not have access to smartphones that can update them on the bus routes or they are confused by the information currently provided at the stops. This new system would be an interactive touch screen that would show where on the route the bus is in real time, as well as a map of the entire route and the routes of the busses that also go through that stop.

We would like to thank the esteemed panel of judges, including Scott Bosworth, Chief Strategy Officer, MassDOT; Lisa Peterson, Deputy City Manager, City of Cambridge; Stephanie Pollack, Secretary and CEO, MassDOT; Dr. Stephen M. Popkin, Deputy Director for Research and Technology, U.S. Department of Transportation/Volpe Center; Roy Russell, Founding Chief Technology Officer, Zipcar; Angie Uyham, Design Lab Director, Cambridge Public Schools; and Kate Berseth, Executive Vice President, EF Education First. A number of other organizations including the MBTA, MIT, CIC, Hult International Business School, Zipcar, Hubway, Zagster, the City of Cambridge, and MassDOT, all played a role in making the Glocal Challenge a success again this year.