Taking on the AP® Global Challenge with Oodles of Utils
Taking on the AP® Global Challenge with Oodles of UtilsAbby Hexter, Assistant Director, Member Communications, The College Board
A New Way to Shop
A customer is considering two bottles of water at a grocery store. The bottle on the left is green, and the bottle on the right is blue. The bottles are the same size, they taste the same, and they cost the same. The only discernable difference between the two options is that the green bottle was produced in a factory with safe and fair working conditions, and the blue bottle was not. Armed with this knowledge, the customer chooses to buy the green bottle.
Six AP students from Boca Raton, Fla., decided to test the notion that when provided with knowledge about the social, environmental, and economic impacts of the products they purchase, consumers would change the way they buy.
Earlier this month, All Access featured the winners of the AP® Global Challenge: a team of students from Boca Raton Community High School called “Oodles of Utils.” With help from their faculty adviser Meredith Miller, team members Phineas Agar, Ellis Galyon, Matthew Kirchman, Lawrence Richardson, Isabelle Tersio, and Elizabeth Vilmar worked together over the course of the three-month pilot program to create the SEE ID. This week, AP teachers from across the country got a chance to hear about the winning project firsthand at the 2014 AP Annual Conference in Philadelphia.
The team’s goal was to create a convenient way to provide information about consumer products based on the factors consumers care about the most.
“We decided to approach the problem holistically, creating a way to inform consumers about the impact a product has at every stage of its consumption cycle,” the team stated in their video.
The SEE ID rates products on a scale of 1–10 for each of three impact areas: social, economic, and environmental. The SEE ID links to an interactive map, allowing the consumer to see how a product affects specific regions. Oodles of Utils used LED light bulbs — a product that has major global impacts in many ways — to illustrate how the SEE ID would help consumers make more informed decisions about the products they buy.
Although the SEE ID is still in its earliest phases of development, Oodles of Utils team members intend to continue the project and explore whether it can become a viable, scalable resource for consumers.
The Importance of Happy Hour, a Sprained Ankle, and a Passport
The creation of the SEE ID resulted in a $5,000 scholarship for each student on the team, but it was often a challenging process. At a happy hour one evening, Miller, who teaches AP Economics, learned about the AP Global Challenge from a fellow teacher by chance. With the deadline to register a team just two days away, she immediately thought of students who would excel in a self-directed, research-heavy, collaborative learning project. She told each potential participant that in order to be a part of the team, they had to commit immediately to a trip to Philadelphia in July to present their winning project at the AP Annual Conference. Her confidence was a driving factor in the formation of the team.
The students met whenever their already demanding schedules would allow. Before school, lunchtime, and the 90 minutes between the end of the school day and the beginning of sports practice became prime working time. Time management skills were put to the test: Although the College Board provided benchmark activities to guide teams and set the pace for the challenge, students were on their own in planning steps, setting deadlines, and prioritizing tasks. An unfortunate sprained ankle became a blessing in disguise for Matthew when, no longer able to run track, he had more time to devote to the project.
“We are very used to boundaries and syllabi. Without set instructions, we had to make up our own instructions,” said Isabelle. “We just had to start bouncing ideas off of each other and slowly but surely come to consensus.”
That consensus came when, after brainstorming for a few weeks, Elizabeth suggested the idea of a product passport. The first iteration of the SEE ID was a physical booklet that looked like a passport attached to every product, detailing its global impact. As the team’s thinking progressed, the practicality of a simple label with a link to online information became apparent, and the project evolved from there.
Learning to Achieve Through Collaboration
The AP Global Challenge was designed to allow students to tap into the skills and knowledge they have developed in their AP classes and apply that knowledge to solve real-world problems. Oodles of Utils team members quickly realized that in addition to honing the skills they had developed throughout their academic careers, the AP Global Challenge was about teamwork, relationship building, and mutual respect.
The team was challenged to work in a new way that demanded cooperation in the face of frequent disagreement. Team members were not used to having to cede good ideas for better ideas, or to relinquishing control for the sake of the group.
“We were allowed to be creative and say the crazy things that let us expand our thinking and develop the way we want to. What works for one person isn’t what will work for everyone,” said Ellis .
“Everyone had to give leeway to one another and keep our minds open,” said Isabelle.
This demand for collaboration allowed for innovation and led the team to continuously refine their work and generate a winning result.
Working with a teacher in an advising capacity was also new to the seasoned AP students.
“Mrs. Miller was acting as an adviser and a consultant to us. It was our project, so she let us foster our own ideas so that we could take the project in a direction we chose, and she would be there to support us,” said Matthew.