EcoRace: How a Board Game Can Influence Eco-Friendly Car Purchases

By Paul Choi and Miguel Garrido

For several decades, motor vehicles have been a major source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and pollution in the US. According to the EPA, in 2015 the transportation sector accounted for about 27 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions, second only to the electricity sector. Scientists have long emphasized the adverse effects of vehicle emissions, since GHG emissions cause global warming and drive climate change. Accordingly, U.S. public policy has in recent years aimed to increase the fuel efficiency of motor vehicles.

Yet the effects of vehicle emissions on human health remain significant. Air pollution poses a major risk to public health, and major studies have established a strong link between vehicle emissions and illnesses such as asthma, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and lung cancer. However, consumer surveys indicate that most car buyers don’t consider these health effects when making purchasing decisions.

Moreover, fuel efficiency ranked 8th out of the top 10 factors that consumers consider when buying cars. This is troubling given that the fuel economy of a vehicle is a high-leverage point that can substantially reduce tailpipe emissions and thus improve public health.

EcoRace: A Board Game to Influence Car-Buying Decisions

We designed a board game called EcoRace to address the two primary problems outlined above. First, fuel efficiency is currently not one of the primary factors that consumers take into account when buying a new car. Second, although the effects of vehicle emissions on global warming have been well publicized, the impact on human health remains unclear or unknown to a lot of people.

EcoRace is a game played with two teams of two players each (it is cooperative among teammates yet competitive among teams). Each team has six cars (3 cars per player) of different fuel efficiencies: low, medium, and high. The objective of the game is to get all six cars to the finish line before the other team.

The rules of the game are simple: first, one player chooses a car to move and rolls the die. The player then moves the car on the board by the number displayed on the die multiplied by the MPG of the car (1 for low, 2 for medium, and 3 for high fuel efficiency). Then a player from the second team choose a car to move and rolls the die, and teams take turns in this way to move around the blocks.

To promote cooperation among teammates, players can choose to move two cars together if they land on the same square (this is an analogy to carpooling in the real world). Hence, strategic decisions about moving specific cars and waiting for your teammate to go move together occur throughout the game.

Additionally, the game includes 12 specific “Chance” blocks, which require the player that lands on them to pick up a Chance Card and read the instructions. The Chance Cards are data-driven and provide impactful statistics on the health effects of vehicles emissions. They reward fuel efficient cars and punish low fuel economy cars.

Audience and goals

The primary audience for this board game is young millennials who are considering buying a new car. We picked this demographic because their car-buying behavior can yield important insights about the future of vehicle emissions in this country. On one hand, studies indicate that the recent recession, coupled with the meltdown of the auto industry in 2009 and the rise of ride-hailing apps such as Uber, caused a stark decline in car ownership rates among millennials. Yet on the other hand, recent data indicate that millennials aren’t ditching car ownership altogether – they are simply delaying it.

However, surveys indicate that the health impacts of vehicle emissions, and fuel efficiency in general, are not key factors that millennials take into account when making purchasing decisions. Instead, they focus on features such as navigation system, satellite radio, Bluetooth, and mobile integration.

Our goals for EcoRace are thus threefold, each corresponding to a different time horizon. In the short run, we hope that millennials who play this game will understand the link between vehicle emissions and health problems. We believe this link is critical to making fuel efficiency a key buying factor, since that is the primary mechanism though which tailpipe emissions (and adverse health effects) can be reduced.

Our medium-term goal for EcoRace is to actually influence eco-friendly car-buying decisions among millennials. Specifically, we aim to make fuel efficiency a top factor (at least in the top 3 features) that they consider when buying a vehicle. In the long term, our hope is that millennials will choose to drive their fuel-efficient cars less and even ditch gasoline cars altogether, instead opting for electric cars or public transportation (our final thoughts below expand on this idea).

Data: Making heath information central to the game

As mentioned above, the health impact of vehicle emissions is the key theme of EcoRace, and we chose to make the health information central to the game by directly incorporating it into the Chance Cards, thus influencing the actual decisions that players make when moving their pieces along the board. An example of a chance card is:

Hazardous air pollutants (toxics) have been linked to birth defects, cancer, and other serious illnesses. The EPA estimates that the air toxics emitted from cars and trucks account for 50% of all cancers caused by air pollution. Your vehicle missions have contributed to increased cancer rates in your community.

If your fuel efficiency is low:  go back 3 spaces

If your fuel efficiency is medium:  go back 2 spaces

If your fuel efficiency is high, go back 1 space

Our chance cards cover a broad range of health impacts associated with vehicle emissions, from asthma to cardiovascular disease to diabetes to lung cancer, all summarized in a data-driven manner.

Testing the game

We tested EcoRace internally first, simulating several games using an early prototype to iterate and improve the pedagogical experience of the game. We then tested the game with four real players (from our target audience of millennials interested in buying a car in the near future). First, the players played a version of the game that was purely competitive (one vs. one), which did yield insights into the learning impact of the Chance Cards (understanding the link between vehicle emissions and human health, and incorporating fuel efficiency into purchasing criteria). However, the competitive aspect of the game did not enable us to promote cooperation, which more broadly speaks to the idea that working and coordinating with others (e.g. carpooling) can be a very effective means of reducing vehicle emissions.

As such, in our second round of testing, we incorporated a cooperative aspect to the game. Now two players would be assigned to each team, and each team would have to work together to strategize their moves along the way (e.g. which cars to move first, which squares to try to land on in order to carpool, etc.). We tested this second version of the game with four players and found that participants directly took into account the benefits of carpooling (e.g. moving two cars at the same time in this context) while still learning about the health impacts of different fuel efficiency levels among their cars. In the end, players viewed their least efficient cars as a nuisance and wished they could only drive cars with a high gas mileage.

To measure the success (or failure) of our game, we performed a simple pre-post interview to gauge the participants’ views regarding fuel efficiency. First, before they even knew what game they were going to play, we asked them to name the car they were most likely to buy (at least the general type) in the near future. Second, after they played one round of the game, we asked them the same question. According to our interviews, all of them said that fuel efficiency would likely be a key purchasing factor. Two of the interviewees even mentioned that learning about the adverse health impact of vehicle emissions would influence their future car-buying decisions, since they were thinking of having children soon.

Benefits of the game and concluding thoughts

EcoRace is a game designed to influence eco-friendly car buying by linking the adverse health effects of vehicle emissions to fuel efficiency. We believe it is effective because it promotes and rewards cooperation, raises awareness about fuel economy and its effects on public health, and provides data-driven mini-stories (in the form of Chance Cards) as part of a broader narrative (making it from home to the beach, which is the finish line in the game). It does so in a playful manner that still retains the key concepts we want millennials to understand about fuel efficiency.

As possible next steps, EcoRace can be improved in several ways. First, the link between the cars in the game to those in real life can be strengthened. Specifically, different car profiles can be developed that correspond to actual vehicle and truck types that consumers can buy, rather than abstract objects that simply have fuel efficiency levels of low, medium, and high. Second, more testing can be done to identify the target audience for this game. Millennials may be too broad a term, and the game may be more effective if we targeted a narrowly defined user (such as kids of a certain age range). Third, the game itself would have to be adopted by key customers in our target sector in order to actually make a difference. These are all possible directions that future enhancements can take with respect to EcoRace. However, we believe the version we’ve developed presents an effective and innovative way of influencing eco-friendly car-buying decisions.

Slide presentation located here

Data Sources:





Hubway Class of 2017: Final Project

By Meghan Kokoski, Mikayla Murphy, Kimberly Yu, and Margaret Yu


The main data source we used was the Hubway trips dataset, which contains the start station, end station, timings, and other information for every Hubway ride ever taken.

Early on, we identified that our primary audience was MIT students without a Hubway membership, and that our goal was to encourage these students to purchase annual Hubway memberships. To achieve this goal, we created a set of posters for the Infinite Corridor. Each poster focuses on a specific Hubway bike that plays a certain character in the “Hubway Class of 2017”. The characters were carefully chosen to emphasize unique parts of MIT culture (so as to be relatable to MIT students) while also having a strong data-driven story. We chose to represent the class of 2017 as the MIT class of 2017 is just about to graduate, making it the most current and relatable class. As such, we used Hubway data from September 2016 through February 2017 (the latest available Hubway data as of now).

Our first character was the Hacker bike, which is the Hubway bike that had the most trips at night. Using the dataset, we found that Bike 1738 had the most trips that started between 10 pm and 6 am, with 54 trips.

The second character was the Course 6 bike, which was the bike that had the most trips to or from the Hubway station at the Stata Center. Stata houses most of the Course 6 classes and professors, and Course 6 is the largest major at MIT, so we thought it would be especially relatable to most MIT students. Bike 1382 had the most trips to and from the Stata Center station, with 49 trips (24 trips starting from Stata and 25 trips ending at Stata) .

The third bike was the Greek bike, which was the bike that made the most trips from the main MIT campus to the two stations closest to the MIT Greek houses across the river. The MIT stations were defined as the Stata Center station and the Mass Ave/Amherst St station, and the Greek stations were defined as the Kenmore Square station and the Beacon St/Mass Ave station. Bike 640 had the most trips between these stations with 55 trips.

The last bike was the Firehosed bike, which was defined as the bike that was most busy (aka took the most trips). Being hosed is very relatable to MIT students, so we hoped they’d empathize with Bike 1395, which took 701 total trips between September 2016 and February 2017.

To support each of the stories, we added a second layer of information about biking and Hubway linked to each character. For example, for the Firehosed bike, we added facts about how biking and being outdoors decreases stress, because hosed students are often stressed. For the Course 6 bike, we talked about the environmental impacts that biking has, as Course 6’s are trying to change the world technologically, so why not change the world environmentally too? For the Hacker bike, we added facts about safety, as safety is an important part of the Hacker Code of Ethics, and for the Greek bike, we focused on the time savings, as students who live across the river often complain about the commute time required.


The four Hubway Class of 2017 posters would be displayed on bulletin boards in the Infinite. Our audience is MIT students who are potential annual Hubway subscribers. Our goals are to raise awareness of the Hubway service, increase Hubway annual memberships, and lower CO2 levels.

We interviewed twelve MIT students who do not have an annual Hubway membership. Before showing them the posters, we asked them the following pre-questions:

  1. If you bike, do you own a bike?
  2. Have you heard of Hubway?
  3. Have you ever used Hubway before?
  4. Do you have a Hubway annual membership?
  5. If not, how likely are you to get a Hubway annual membership? (1 – not likely to 5 – very likely)
  6. If not, why do you not have a Hubway membership? Why do you not already have a bike?
  7. If you had to go to Harvard Square, how would you usually get there? (bike, bus, T, car, walk, etc.)
  8. Which of these methods of exercising are you most likely to do this weekend: jogging, walking, biking, or something else?
  9. How useful do you think biking is? (1 – not useful to 5 – most useful)

We then showed them the posters and asked them to imagine them displayed in the Infinite. After they examined the posters, we asked the following post-questions:

  1. (If they didn’t already have Hubway) How likely are you now to get a Hubway annual membership? (1 – not likely to 5 – very likely)
  2. After seeing these posters, are you more likely to bike to Harvard Square? (1 – less likely to 5 – more likely)
  3. Are you more likely to go cycling as a form of exercise this weekend? (1 – less likely to 5 – more likely)
  4. How useful do you think biking is? (1 – not useful to 5 – most useful)
  5. What do you like about the posters? What do you think is most effective?
  6. What do you not like about the posters? What do you think is least effective?
  7. Did we address your concerns about using Hubway?

From the pre-questions, we found that most MIT students have heard of Hubway but are not very likely to get a Hubway membership. The primary reason they do not have a membership is that they seldom go off-campus. We also found that MIT students would most likely take the bus or walk to Harvard Square from MIT, and would most likely walk to exercise over the weekend. They all agree that biking is very useful. After viewing the posters, they were slightly more likely to get a Hubway annual membership. The posters did not affect the likelihood of biking to Harvard Square or cycling to exercise over the weekend. However, their perception of the usefulness of biking increased slightly.

From the feedback on our posters, we learned that MIT students felt more connected to the Hubway service because of the MIT-affiliated bike names and the cute designs. The Course 6 bike and the Firehosed Bike appealed to the most people because they directly addressed the impact of Hubway use on climate change and health. MIT students liked the color scheme and found the layout of the information easy to follow, and the quick facts easy to learn. However, they thought some posters had a lot of text, and they probably wouldn’t stop to read the posters in the Infinite. Although the time comparison was helpful for understanding the usefulness of biking, some people thought it would not be worth it to arrive at an event sweaty from biking, which only saves 2 minutes. MIT students who were not very familiar with Hubway had difficulty understanding the bike id numbers. They were also concerned about the station locations, and one student mentioned how, according to a friend’s experience, the Hubway bike pedals don’t accommodate short people. For the most part, our posters were able to address MIT students’ concerns, particularly in terms of saving time and improving health, and made people seriously consider why they do not have a Hubway annual membership.

Save the Bees: Final Project

By Almaha Almalki,  Autumn Jing,  Sean Soni, & Jingxian Zhang

Link to slides


We created an interactive US state map of foods that depend on bees.  As the user moves a slider, the year changes, and the map changes color to represent the amount of bee colonies left if bee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) continues at its current rate.  Additionally, we display how food prices might change, given the amount of bee colonies remaining in a particular year.

We paired our interactive map with an informative display about CCD, as well as pre- and post-interaction surveys.  We then went to the Copley Farmer’s Market in Boston and tested our interactive with 11 subjects who were shopping at the farmer’s market.  Upon completion of the demo, each participant received a free packet of bee-friendly wildflower seeds, and was encouraged to donate or sign a petition to help save the bees.



We got our data from the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), which publicizes data about bee colony numbers in the United States.  This data provided bee colony numbers by state over the last three years, as well as the estimated amount of money spent on bee pollination by state (the less wild bees, the more farmers must spend on pollination services).  We found that bee colony were rapidly and alarmingly decreasing.  In order to estimate the rate of decline of bee populations in each state, we calculated the average rate of decline in bee population for each state, and then used this average percent decrease to extrapolate over the entire period of our demonstration.  It should be noted that this is a rough estimate, and obviously other factors will influence bee population, and decline is unlikely to be by the same percentage amount every year.  Thus, we were careful to tell our participants that this data was calculated as if bee populations were to keep declining at the current rate.

While the colony decline calculation was relatively straightforward, we had more difficulty calculating the increase in food costs.  After much research on projected costs, we found no academic work that contained the data we were seeking.  Thus, we decided to extrapolate a prediction based on the dollar amount of bee pollination services used.  We found that the amount of money farmers spent on bee pollination services was increasing every year, and we thus calculated the average rate of increase for each food crop, and used these rates to predict the price increases.  This is a rough prediction at best, since other factors will play into food costs, and alternative pollination schemes are likely to emerge when food prices become high enough to make them economically viable.  Thus, we were careful to explain to our participants that these were projected prices, and the real prices could vary widely in the future.  

In order to build our demo, we calculated all of these rates of increase, placed this data into a spreadsheet, and then imported it into our Javascript application.  Aside from our simple calculations described above, there was no data cleaning to be done, as the data provided by the USDA was already in a very useable format.  By making simple calculations, we were able to turn this historical data into a story about the future.  By allowing participants to choose which fruits they personally enjoyed, and only have those appear on the map, we turned a large amount of impersonal data into a story about the participant, allowing them to become more engaged and relate to our story on a personal level.



While we were brainstorming about ideas for this project, we knew we wanted to tell a story using the bee data, and we knew we wanted to create a map.  We spent a long time considering different ways to tell this story, but ultimately decided that we wanted to target people shopping at farmer’s markets, since they were likely already predisposed to care about these issues.  With this target audience in mind, we decided to focus on the cost of produce, as this would be a very tangible thing to people who are in the process of spending money on produce.  With this audience in mind, we began to think about our goals.  Our ultimate goal was to help end CCD, and we came up with three concrete ways to make a contribution.  First, we would ask participants to sign a petition to ban neonicotinoid pesticides, second we would ask them to donate to Save the Bees, and finally we would give them bee-friendly wildflower seeds to plant.  We also hoped to have them think about CCD over the long-term, and share this information with their friends.

In order to gauge the effectiveness of our visualization, we implemented a pre-demo and post-demo survey on the iPad, and also asked a series of verbal questions.  The iPad survey asked the participants to rank three issues (CCD, climate change, and urbanization) in order of least threatening to most threatening to our food supply.  The verbal questions at the end of the demonstration asked how likely the participants were to buy organic, plant the seeds, and tell their friends about CCD.  

The iPad survey was not as successful as we would have liked, with the majority of participants not changing their answers and consistently ranking CCD second.  Some participants ranked CCD as the most threatening issue on the pre-demo survey, most likely in an attempt to placate us (one person told us as much).  Thus, when they did the same on the post-demo survey, it was difficult to gauge if their perception had changed.  Overall, we found that most people had strong pre-existing beliefs about these issues, and our audience was in general well-educated and knowledgeable about these issues (3 of our 11 participants happened to be MIT graduates).  We found that the mention of climate change in the survey tended to derail the conversation, as many participants had strong views about climate change.  In the future, we would alter this portion of the survey.

The verbal interview questions were much more effective, and here we got our greatest source of feedback.  The first person we spoke with was, by pure coincidence, an amateur beekeeper, and his feedback was especially valuable.  He loved our idea, but said he wanted to see more information on CCD available to our audience, beyond the facts we presented.  Indeed, this desire was expressed by others, so in future iterations we would bring along informative brochures we could hand out.  Other participants noted that they already shopped organic, some exclusively.  Almost all of them said they would plant the seeds, and most seemed excited about it.  When asked if they would share information about CCD with friends, most took it as a suggestion and nonchalantly acquiesced, as if we were making a request rather than an inquiry.  Overall, we received very positive feedback, and with a few tweaks, we believe this could be a viable project on a large scale that could make a significant difference in helping combat CCD.

The Road to Paris

Ashley Wang, Brandon Levy, Kevin Zhang, Nina Lutz, & Nikki Waghani

Link to slides:

Link to web site:


Transportation is currently the second largest contributor to emissions, just behind electricity generation. Our primary goal is to reduce emissions by targeting commuters, and specifically those who drive to work. We want to show them the impact they can have by choosing a greener ride to work. We specifically sent out our web page to communities on Facebook and Reddit that are already inclined to care about climate change but might not be convinced that they can help. We aim to help them better understand the magnitude of the problem, convince them their actions can make a difference, and then show them how they can reasonably adjust their commute to contribute to our goal. In addition, we assume they are busy people so we aim to provide them with practical solutions they can actually implement. To do this we look at each individual’s commute and give concrete, specific options on how they can make it greener.

We would also like to inspire a grassroots effort to combat climate change in the face of lacking government leadership. Progress was made when the United Nations came together to draft the Paris Agreement in 2016 and it looked like the world had stepped up to the challenge of fighting climate change. However, with the recent administration change in the United States, it is possible that America will pull out of the Paris Agreement, making it important to educate and inspire Americans to act green regardless of what the government decides to do.

To evaluate how well our webpage accomplished our goals, we tracked how many users clicked on the petition link at the end. This data was collected from posting on the March for Science facebook page, reddit (r/climate and r/environment), and sending out the link to friends and family.

In total, 92 individuals accessed our web page and 13 of them (14%) clicked on the petition link at the end. Seeing as our target audience is already primed to care about this issue, this result could be viewed in one of two ways. It’s possible they already signed this petition or a similar one and so did not feel the need to sign this petition. Alternatively, it might suggest that our site was not effective in discussing the importance of the Paris Agreement, although user responses to other questions would suggest this isn’t the case.

We also asked users to complete a short post-survey. 31 users (34%) completed the post-survey. 13% of these individuals said our page made them “much more concerned” about climate change and 20% said that our page made them “slightly more concerned,” whereas 67% were “equally concerned” afterwards. The fact that our site was able to increase users’ concern at all is a solid accomplishment given that this audience is already primed to care about the issue.

Moreover, 13% said that they are “very likely” to change the way they commute after going through our web page, compared to 33% who said they are “slightly likely” and 54% who said they are “not at all likely.” Given that altering one’s commute can be a significant change to an ingrained routine and some of our respondents likely already take public transportation, bike, or walk to work, these results are encouraging.

85% of respondents said we should stay in the Paris Agreement, 10% said they weren’t sure, and 5% said we should not. Since our audience is already primed to care about global climate change, this is a bit disappointing. We seem to not have made a strong enough case for the importance of the US keeping its Paris commitments, since doing so should have been a really easy sell to our target audience. On the other hand, in reality, very few people said “not sure” or “no,” so perhaps these were people were outliers.

Finally, 52% of respondents said they think individual transportation choices can have a “big impact” on US greenhouse gas emissions, while 45% said “some impact” and 3% said “no impact.” Although it’s unclear whether our site caused these feelings of personal power, the numbers are still a great sign, since encouraging people to think their individual actions matter was the primary goal of our site. Even if they don’t change their commute, these people may institute other changes that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


The arc of our story begins with an introduction that establishes the planet is warming and quantifies how much warming has occurred over the past 130 years using data from NASA’s Goddard Institution for Space Studies. Next, we have an interactive that asks the user to project how much the Earth will warm if we continue emitting greenhouse gases at our current rate. After they make their guess, we show scientists’ actual prediction under the business-as-usual scenario and detail some of the effects of such a large amount of warming, including rising sea levels and more severe storms. Then on the same graph where users make their predictions, we display what will happen to temperatures if the Paris Climate goals are met. The numbers for both scenarios are drawn from global temperature projections supplied by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This portion of our web page concludes with a brief explanation of the Paris agreement.

The second part of our web page begins with a bubble chart that shows the carbon footprint of the United States in 2005 and what the US’s footprint will need to shrink to by 2025 in order to meet its commitment under the Paris agreement. Next to this chart, we display the five sectors of the economy that contribute to American greenhouse emissions and invite the user to increase or decrease them to see how much a change to each sector would affect US emissions. Data concerning the United States’ annual greenhouse gas emissions came from the World Bank, and numbers for the contribution of various sectors of the economy to US emissions came from the US Environmental Protection Agency. We conclude this section by informing the user that transportation is the second largest contributor to emissions in the US economy, just behind electricity generation.

The third section of our web page begins with an invitation to help the US meet its Paris commitment by changing the way the user commutes. This section features an interactive that informs the user about how fuel efficient their car is. Our page displays five cars, one in each quintile of fuel efficiency. We then ask the user what kind of car they drive and ask him or her to drag their car to a place on the scale from most fuel-efficient to least fuel-efficient. To do this, we utilize data on the fuel efficiencies of different passenger vehicles from the US Department of Energy.

The final section features an interactive that recommends changes to the user’s commute based on its length and how they currently get to and from work (by car, bus, or bike). We utilize the Google Maps API to calculate the length of the user’s commute, which is then used to determine the amount of carbon the user would produce by commuting by car, bus, and bike using numbers from the European Cyclists’ Federation. We also used that API to determine whether taking the bus or biking is an option for the user. We only recommend taking the bus as an option if it there is a bus route and it would reduce the carbon footprint of the user’s commute (since the bus route may be significantly longer than a direct route via car). Similarly, biking is only recommended if the user’s commuting distance is less than two kilmometers. In all cases, we also recommend carpooling or purchasing a more fuel efficient car as ways to “green” the user’s commute.


Team Members: Erick Fritz, Krithi Chandrakasan, Aina Martinez Zurita, Sam Resnick

Link to Video:


The USDA has been collecting data on the US honey bee population for the past several decades.  It has been tracking the population of bees per state, the productivity per hive, and the price of honey.  This data is available on the website in .txt form with a different page for each year.  We cleaned it by grouping all the years together in one .csv file with columns according to: State, Colonies, YieldPColony, Production, StocksPricePound, ValueProduction, Year.

Upon first looking at the data there seemed to be random fluctuations in state’s honey bee population, except for one state, which consistently grew until it far surpassed all the others in honey productivity.  This state is North Dakota.  As soon as we saw this we became interested.  Why did this state that is so rarely on our radar have such a significant growth in honey bee population relative to all the others?  We started to do some additional research and began to see articles by beekeepers and conservationists saying that “North Dakota was the last best place to keep bees in America.” We found out that this is because the honey bee’s habitat has largely been destroyed across the rest of the country as prairies have been converted to farmland to product high yield cash crops. This loss of habitat due to farming and pesticide use has been given the name colony collapse disorder.  Even North Dakota is not safe from this epidemic, however, and its own prairies are starting to shrink, seriously endangering the last of the American honey bee population.  These prairies were once protected by the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which protected natural grassland across the midwest, but as farmers learned that they could make more money by planting crops, the CRP has been slowly pushed back.  There are several organizations working to sponsor the planting of wildflowers instead of cash crops in farm fields as well as encourage advocacy at the national level.  Pheasants Forever is one of these organizations that operates in North Dakota, and is encouraging conservationists to sign a petition to expand the CRP this coming year.  This organization is intending to spread across six other states in the midwest in the next year to help preserve the honey bees habitat.  This issue is not only a matter of habitat preservation.  Since the honeybee is responsible for pollinating most of America’s crops, the security of our food source is at stake.  This is an issue that affects every single person living in America today, and that is why we need to tell the bee’s story.

This story is about a large scale issue that affects the entire US population, across all states, but it has its roots at a small scale level.  Because of this, we determined that our story lent itself well to a zooming in, zooming out approach – similar to The Powers of Ten by Ray and Charles Eames.  Additionally, the story has a central geographic theme since it is about the role of a single state in the welfare of the entire country.  We therefore decided to tell our story by starting with a wide lens looking at the US bee population changes over the past few decades, then zooming in on North Dakota as an anomaly.  We zoomed into a specific town, with a specific apiary, owned by a specific beekeeper, and took a look at a single hive of bees as we explained his story.  We then started to zoom out as we told the reasons for the delicacy of the bee’s situation and how grave the problem could become.  As we approached our initial viewing point, we left the viewer with a positive message knowing that they could help by signing this petition.  The viewer finds him/herself in the same position as they started in but now with a deeper knowledge of a complex problem that affects them directly and with a resource at their fingertips through which to help the cause.  


There were a few short term goals we had for this data story. First and foremost, we wanted to educate our audience on bee colony collapse and provide them with a new perspective on the issue. In addition we wanted them to understand that bees are one of the largest factors that impact our food security. As an immediate action step we hope that this video will motivate them to buy honey. In the medium term we hope that viewers will sign the petition. Finally, in the long term we hope that viewers will become strong supporters of legislation that preserves habitat.

For this data story we target young Americans both in and out of the midwest who are interested in conservation and are active on social media. While narratives like this one are often targeted at the more liberal community our story aims to cut across party lines. The organization Pheasants Forever which we promote within the story has bipartisan support, as many conservative hunters support the organization because it helps conservation and allows them to hunt pheasants.
In order to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of our data story we showed the video to farmers market patrons, beekeepers, and a North Dakota resident. We framed the start of the video with questions asking what the viewer thought was the most important factor that affects food production and which state the most honey bees live in. As a follow up to the video we asked if their answer to the first question had changed, if they had learned anything new about honey bees, and if they would be more willing to sign the petition supporting CRP(detailed Q&A given below). We then gave viewers a small strip of paper with the link to the CRP petition which served as the call to action.
Based on the results of our user testing it was clear that our short term goals were met. Most of the participants had predicted crop disease was the most important factor for food production, however after watching the video all but one participant changed their answer to bee colony collapse. Additionally, after watching the video it was clear that they had gained new perspective on the plight and importance of the honey bees and learned where geographically the problem was taking place. We also met our medium term goals, as all participants seemed very excited to receive the slip with information and said they would sign the petition when they had a chance. Finally, based on our user testing it is too early to know if we met our long term goal, however the positive responses we received are a good sign that viewers will care more about legislation preserving habitat in the future.
Overall, we believe that our data story addresses the very important topic of bee colony collapse with a powerful narrative, and both educates and motivates viewers to take action to help solve the problem.

Before questions:

  1. Which of these factors do you think affects food production the most?
  • Drought
  • Bee colony collapse
  • Global population increase
  • Crop diseases
  • GMO
  1. Where do you think most honeybees in the US live? (Select state)

After questions:

  1. After watching this video, does your answer to question n.1 change?
  • Drought
  • Bee colony collapse
  • Global population increase
  • Crop diseases
  • GMO
  1. Did you learn something new about honeybees in America?
  • Yes
  • No
  1. After watching this video, if someone asked you to sign the petition would you be more willing to do so?
  • Yes
  • No

 Person 1: Middle aged man, a tender at one of the stalls.

  1. Crop Diseases.
  2. Arizona
  3. Same answers, still crop diseases.
  4. Yes
  5. Yes

Person 2: Young girl

  1. Bee colony collapse
  2. California
  3. Same answer, bee colony collapse.
  4. Yes, specially commenting that she didn’t know about North Dakota.
  5. Yes, I would already have, but certainly would sign it after seeing the video.

Person 3: Young girl

  1. Bee colony collapse
  2. Texas
  3. Same answer as 1.
  4. Yes, commenting as well about the fact that they didn’t know about ND.
  5. Yes.

Person 4: Young girl(Friends with Person 3)

  1. Crop disease
  2. (Where is somewhere warm…)Florida
  3. Yes, bees.
  4. Yes, commenting they didn’t know about ND.
  5. Yes

Person 5: Man, middle aged.

  1. Crop disease
  2. California
  3. “Well, after seeing this video, clearly the bees are important”
  4. Yes, commenting they didn’t know about ND.
  5. Yes, however commented that “they doubt it would have any impact”


Sharlene Chiu, Lawrence Sun, Tricia Shi, and Zachary Collins



For our final project, we iterated on the participatory game sketch the “Amazing Race,” changing the name to “Itinerarie.” The data shows that personal vehicles produce a large amount of carbon emissions. Choosing public transportation or other more environmentally friendly modes of transportation can have a major impact on air pollution. Convenience, time and cost are factors that make picking the “greenest” forms of transportation not always practical. There are times, however, in which we can reasonably select between a variety of options. The amount of carbon emissions we can prevent is actually quite shocking. If everyone were to think of the environment when making these decisions, the aggregate results could be huge. Our fully realized sketch is a text-based game that forces our audience, i.e. MIT students, to think of these trade-offs and understand how their decisions impact the environment. We created a web application as the medium for the game to be played, allowing people to play it via their personal computers or mobile devices.

Link to Game:

At the start of the game, users are presented a list of seven activities such as “Grocery Shopping at Shaws” and “Visiting the Museum of Fine Arts.” Users are told to select three activities they may perform in the upcoming weekend. Then, for each one, the game asks users how they would get there. Users can select between walking, biking (through Hubway), using public transportation, and calling an Uber. Beside each transportation option are the associated estimated prices and travel times. After selecting the mode of transportation for each activity, users are then reminded that the environment is important and are told to repick keeping it in mind as well. The same activities and transportation options are shown again, but this time with the approximate carbon emissions alongside each option as well. Finally, the user is shown the difference and resulting impact changing such decisions would have.

The data used to build the app came from a variety of sources. For each of the destinations, we needed to obtain the cost, time, and carbon emissions associated with each of the given modes of transportation. We also utilized other measurements such as the amount of carbon absorbed by a tree per year in creating our results page.

We obtained, from a report done by the Federal Transit Administration, the average pounds of carbon dioxide per passenger mile released from private auto and public transit. We operated under the assumption that the carbon contribution of walking and biking was zero. We used Hubway, Uber, and MBTA estimated fares when taking trips to find the associated price for each of the possible destinations we incorporated. We operated under the assumption that walking comes with no monetary cost. We used Google Maps to gather the estimated time it would take to walk, bike, use public transportation, or drive to each of the destinations we provided. All of our metrics used the Student Center as the starting point. Finally, using the fact that a mature tree consumes up to 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year, we were able to convert computed carbon emissions into the number of “trees worth of work” per day. All of our computed numbers and metrics can be found in the following Google Sheets file.

Link to Data File:



We wanted our project to change the way users think about how their transportation choices impact the environment. In the short term, we hope to reveal to them how much each of the prescribed options emits, clarifying why always taking an Uber might not be the most environmentally conscious choice, especially over time. In the long term, we hope to convince them to make the more environmentally friendly transportation decision when they can reasonably do so. Just as we bring to light in our project, if everyone made these choices, we would save a considerable amount of pollution from entering the atmosphere.

Our target audience for this project are MIT students. This allows us to focus in on a group that will often go to the same places and make the same transportation decisions. Using the Student Center as a point of reference allowed us to produce numbers that both make sense and are applicable to everyone who we expect to play the game.

To gauge the impact our game could have, we performed two sets of systemized tests. For a more general and loose experiment, we sent the link to our web app and an anonymous survey to many of the dorm mailing lists. This experiment was used to gauge participant reactions to playing the game. Our web app logged over 200 plays and we received over 130 responses to our survey. We used Google Analytics to record the actions and selections users made.

As users played our web app, we recorded the modes of transportation used but not the locations they specified for anonymity. Below is a table tabulating the selections our users made:

First Run Second Run Change
Walk 310 359 +15.80%
Biking (Hubway) 31 70 +125.80%
Public Transport 201 140 -30.30%
Car (Uber) 63 37 -41.30%

From the data we can see that once the users are made aware of the impact of their decisions on CO2 emissions, they decrease car and public transportation usage in favor of walking and biking. Public transportation usage decreased less than Uber usage did as it is less harmful to the environment. The data tells us that on their second run, users had on average
35% less carbon emissions than their first run, demonstrating that once users learn more about CO2 emissions they can effectively make use of their knowledge to make better decisions.

Based on the anonymous survey results, we concluded that the game indeed met our short-term goal of improving how well people understood the impacts of their transportation decisions. Prior to playing the game, about 77.8% of participants had at least an okay understanding of transportation carbon emissions. Afterward, that percentage increased to 82.5% of people understanding at least a good amount about the impact of their transportation decisions.

Interestingly, the number of people who marked the two option which indicated the highest knowledge decreased after playing the game. 50.4% of users said they had a solid intuition or knew everything coming into the game, but only 42.6% marked similar options after playing the game. This is most likely a case of where users thought they knew a lot going in, but once they saw the data they realized they knew less than they thought, in which case our game still meets our goal as users are still becoming more knowledgeable about the impact of their transportation decision.

Some survey respondents critiqued the effectiveness of the web app in terms of educating users and inspiring better transportation decisions. However, these respondents tended to walk and bike to different places, so their transportation decisions are already generally environmentally friendly.

For a more controlled experiment, we set up our web app in Lobby 10 and got people to play the game. We first asked them a few questions to get a better understanding of how they make transportation decisions. They then played the game and were asked a few more questions to gauge their reactions to the game and the effect it might have had.

Prior to playing the game, we asked participants what form of transportation would they go to use when trying to visit a local place off campus. After playing, we asked them if they felt their knowledge on the information displayed changed. We also asked the initial question again to see if their answer changed.

We found that when people were flagged down to play the game and answer our questions, they rushed and weren’t really engaged. When people came over voluntarily, the game proved short enough for them to stay focused while completing it. Those who generally would walk or bike did not really change their opinions after playing the game. While they thought they gained a better understanding of the numbers presented, their choice of transportation remained walking or biking. They did not find playing the game very meaningful. One user, who selected walking for every option, said that, “I don’t know how useful this is….. I obviously know that cars are less eco friendly than walking or biking and I don’t feel like the actual numbers changed my opinion all that much. Sorry– it was a beautiful app, though.”

Those that said prior to playing that they tend to Uber, even close by, were more surprised by the numbers presented. They felt that the tree analogy opened their eyes to show how even small changes in transportation actually amount to a lot. Most, however, said that, while they might be more conscious of the effects, they probably won’t change the way they’d get around in the long term. One user remarked that, “It’s kind of scary the numbers if you live this lifestyle, like the number of trees,” but said that after playing they’ll likely still Uber to get around.

Overall we felt that the prototype of our game met our short term goal of making users more conscious of how their transportation decisions impact the environment. The “trees worth of work” analogy rang home with many and seemed to at least make them think about how they’ll make choices in the future. It does seem that it wasn’t very successful at meeting our long term goal of getting users to change the way they’ll make decisions in the future. Many admitted, that although the numbers surprised them, they’ll probably still make the same choices in the long term. We think that making the game provide more personalized tips or using it to help destigmatize the downfalls of “greener” transportation options might help us move toward better achieving our long term aims.


Extending and Reworking “Polar Bear and Glaciers: Seal Your Survival”

by Margaret Tian, Tina Quach, Tony Zeng, Willie Zhu

Depiction of our game in progress.


Our project was a physical board game titled “Polar Bears: Seal Your Survival” that aimed to teach kids about the impact of global warming on the Arctic. We focused on making the game engaging, by emphasizing interactivity. The board game format is well-suited for kids, because the short play sessions are able to hold their attention, while still teaching them about global warming. See images of our game in this deck of slides.

The rules of our board game are linked here. We generally modeled our game off of Candyland. In each round, the players were pregnant polar bears trying to gather enough food to survive the winter by collecting 8 seals before reaching the end of the game. There were 3 rounds overall that corresponded to the summers in 2012, 2014, and 2016 in the Bering sea. Our board featured two types of tiles: water and ice. The number of ice tiles decreased between rounds to symbolize the melting polar ice caps. Players rolled two dice to move, and drew a corresponding ice or water card. The ice cards generally gave better results than water cards (i.e. more likely to gain seals or experience other good events) since it’s easier for polar bears to hunt and survive on ice.

To give kids an idea of how melting Arctic ice connected to the rest of the world and generally educate them on fighting global warming in their daily lives, we also mixed in “fight global warming” cards into each deck. These cards had questions about global warming that all players had to work together to answer. If correct, players would either gain seals or add ice onto their board. A lot of time was spent calibrating the distributions of cards to make the game challenging yet still enjoyable.


Our data sources included NASA Arctic ice coverage data and many online articles about global warming, polar bears, arctic wildlife, and climate change.

We worked with NASA Arctic ice coverage data (csv) in order to correlate difficulty of our game with shrinking ice caps. We used ice cap data from summers in the Bering Sea in 2012, 2014, and 2016. Without needing to clean the dataset, we found that the amount of ice decreased 25% from 2012 to 2014 and 15% to 2014 to 2016.

The area of ice caps during summertime in the Bering Sea decreased 25% from 2012 to 2014 and 15% to 2014 to 2016.
The area of ice caps during summertime in the Bering Sea decreased 25% from 2012 to 2014 and 15% to 2014 to 2016. 

The changes between each “round” of our board game were based on ice cap data. The depicted decrease in ice from 2012 to 2014 to 2016 is reflected in our game as users start off with all tiles as ice and must add water tiles in every round (reducing access to ice tiles). This affects game difficulty because ice tiles have more cards with positive consequences (such as +1 seal or +2 seal) than water tiles do. Our game started with 70 tiles of ice, which decreased to 54 and then 36 ice tiles.

We also pulled from online sources–ranging from news websites to advocacy groups websites to informational websites about animal habitats–to get facts on polar bears and global warming. With the intention of integrating these facts into our ice, water, and global warming cards as well as the rules of the game, we compiled a database of card content that can be seen in this spreadsheet, which includes citations and links to our data sources. This research affected our rules–we determined that users would need about 8 seals to survive per round based on the fact that pregnant polar bears need to 400 lbs of fat to survive the winter and each seal is on average 50 lbs.

Analyzing our Impact


Our audience is 11 – 14 year olds who like animals may have heard about the impact global warming has on animals, but have not really internalized its devastating impact and ways in which they can try to fight it. Our overall aim is to use the specific example of melting ice caps and polar bears to teach these youth about how global warming hurts the animals they care about.


Our goals can be broken down into short term, medium term and long term goals:

Short term:

  • Players should recognize that global warming causes melting ice that impacts wildlife.
  • Players know at least 3 ways you can fight global warming.

Medium term

  • Players will tell their parents and/or friends about global warming.
  • Players should believe that they can make a difference against global warming.

Long term

  • Players will change their behavior to work against global warming (e.g. choosing eco-friendly transportation, reducing overconsumption and waste, etc.)

Play Testing

In order to evaluate the impact of our board game in promoting a fight against global warming and strong understanding of global warming’s impact on Arctic wildlife, we ran through one full gameplay session with three 7th grade kids from the local Cambridge area.

We found that these 7th graders had fun with the game–upon finishing the game, their immediate response was that they would play it again. However, we did notice that kids didn’t really read the facts that came along with every card in the game (drawn on each turn). Only one of the kids glanced at facts on cards.

However, another aspect of the game, adding water tiles in 3 successive rounds to model increasing difficulty over time, was effective, as one kid commented that they didn’t like water tiles because they made it harder to win, just as melting ice makes it harder for polar bears to hunt. Additionally, global warming cards that were meant to encourage the kids to engage with questions of global warming’s impact and the actions they can take, were harder than intended. This supports our game’s potential for impact in that these hard questions, although potentially discouraging, can really teach those that play the game. Play testing also revealed that, it’s a challenge to make kids consume information if it is optional to–even if the information has been integrated into a game as in ours.


In addition to analyzing the gameplay, we also asked our players some questions before the game and some questions after the game (see chart below for the Q & A).

We met short term goal of players understanding why global warming was bad for the animals in the Arctic, but we fell short in convincing them that effects on the Arctic changed the entire globe. This information is largely concentrated in the global warming cards, which the kids didn’t have a chance to really engage with given that they only played the game once. We also met medium term goal–all three kids said they would discuss global warming with friends and family. We must note that these kids were already predisposed to this since they were working on a sustainability project themselves. It’s too early to tell if the long term goal of the players changing their behavior to combat global warming has been or will be achieved.

Points to consider for future improvements are that players learned best through experience rather than words – so if there’s a lesson we want to drive home, we should build that into the win condition. While we initially thought the game should be collaborative, our test players insisted that the game would be much more fun if it were competitive.


Question Answer 1 Answer 2 Answer 3
What do you know about global warming and its impact on the Arctic? Temp inc decreases and ice caps melt and less land for the polar bears not much will be in the water as the ice melts
Why do you think the Arctic matters? animals live there and they can’t switch to a different environment
How do you think you can combat global warming? Do you do anything day-to-day? unplug chargers drive less, bike or walk drive less, public transportation
One sentence – how did you feel about the game? fun and can laugh at it fun fun
Is there anything that stuck out in particular? ice cards are good water cards are bad
How do you think you can combat global warming? too arctic focused learned stuff about global warming (mostly arctic related)
Do you think you’d talk to your friends and family about global warming? yes yes yes
Would you play this game again? And if so, with who would play with their friends would play with their friends would play with their friends


The Arctic Ice Project

The Arctic Ice Project

by Aina Martinez Zurita / Christian Feld / Kevin Zhang / Lawrence Sun

We worked with the “Multisensor Analyzed Sea Ice Extent – Northern Hemisphere” data set. The data shows that the ice cover is in the shrinking over time. We want to tell the story of what consequences this might have for the animals living in the Northern Hemisphere and for our own lives.


The data not only provides the numbers of the ice extent but also the shape and location of the ice. We want our audience to see the world through the eyes of the animals living there: with the ice melting, their habitat gets smaller and smaller. In our map project we want to transfer this experience to a person living in the U.S.


The core of our project is a two-part map which simultaneously portrays the extent of the Arctic sea ice (right) and a standard map where everything is blacked out except a circle which represents the regions you can reach. The circle has the same area as the sea ice extent and is centered around a location that the viewer can determine. The default location is where the viewer currently is.


The slider below the map allows the viewer to change the year and visualize what it would be like to have their living space melting away each year. In a next iteration of the project, we would show notifications as landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty melt away. Furthermore, to get a second layer of reading and dig more into the data, there is a graph below the maps, which show the increase of CO2 emissions over time.


We see our project as part of a museum exhibition on climate change. The map is adjacent to related exhibits which display the impact of CO2 on the climate. We want to target people that care about the environment and are looking for concrete ways for getting involved. After exploring the map, we direct them to take action by calling their elected officials and oppose H.R. 861: To terminate the Environmental Protection Agency.


We believe that our double map is an effective tool for bringing the abstract idea of “melting sea ice” closer to the viewer, transferring something far away at the North Pole into the viewer’s own geographic region.

Save the Bees!

By Sean Soni, Almaha Almalki, Jingxian Zhang, Autumn Jing

The data say that the number of bee colonies in the United States has been rapidly declining over the last decade.  We want to tell this story because bees are the main pollinator of many of our favorite fruits and vegetables, and without bees we could lose these foods forever.  Thus we have created an interactive display for farmer’s markets which shows customers how the price of their purchase would change as the number of bee colonies decline.  When customers check out, their receipt has a QR code that they can take to a kiosk and scan, with the promise of a free packet of seeds as in incentive.  At the kiosk, they can interact with a map of where their produce comes from.  As they slide a slider to manipulate the number of bee colonies, the density of the produce on the map increases or decreases, and the price they would have paid for today’s produce increases or decreases as well.  After the demo is complete, a free packet of local, bee-friendly seeds is dispensed, and the customer is presented with the opportunity to sign a petition to ban bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides, as well as donate to Save the Bees, an organization studying Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).  Our data is sourced from the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, and we used historical changes in food prices due to the cost of beehive rental to extrapolate how food prices might change in the future.  Although this data is subjective, the exact numbers aren’t as important as the final number:  With zero bees, several fruits and vegetables will cease to be available, no matter how much one is willing to pay.
Our audience is any customer shopping at the farmer’s market.  We believe that these customers are already more aware about their food sources than the average consumer, and are more likely to support our cause.  In addition, implementing our demonstration at a farmer’s market rather than a grocery store allows us to target our message at people who are mainly buying produce, increasing its relevance.  We believe our method is effective because people are more likely to be engaged by the interactive nature of our display, and giving out free seeds encourages people to reciprocate with their support.  Our goals are to help end CCD by raising money to research and prevent this disorder, as well as to garner enough signatures for a petition to Congress to ban neonicotinoid pesticides, which scientists believe are a major contributor to CCD.

Make Bees Great Again!

Team Members: Erick Friis, Krithi Chandrakasan, Sam Resnick, Willy Zhu

The USDA bee colony datasets show an alarming decrease in honey production by state between the years 2000 and 2016. The one exception to this trend is North Dakota, which remains the final safe haven for bees.  However, due to destruction of habitat through increased pesticide use and decrease in conservation efforts, this last home for the American honey bee is being destroyed. We want to tell this story to make people aware of North Dakota’s importance in sustaining the US bee population and the serious threats that lack of preservation legislation poses to these bees.

For our creative data map project we used the power of ten visualization technique to show both the drop in honey bee production and the loss in grassland that is contributing to the demise of the bees. The map initially shows how honey production varies by state over time at the largest scale(showing the whole US). The visualization then descends downward focusing in on North Dakota followed by a specific region in the state, a specific apiary in the region, and finally down to a specific hive in the apiary.  The story narrows down on one bee keeper, Zac Browning and allows the audience to hear his own personal story to gain a grounded, personal point of view on this otherwise large and expansive story. The visualization then quickly reverses direction and the field of view expands outward showing the rapid decrease in grassland in North Dakota and comes to rest after it has panned back to the original starting point. This positive, human interest story narrows down to a personal level while zooming in, then creates a negative, warning story that blows up again to the macroscopic scale.  At the end you are at the same place as in the beginning, but you are left with a new perspective and hopefully the motivation to help preserve grassland and habitat by signing a petition.

Our target audience for this sketch is Americans who want to understand the dynamics of the decline in bee population. This visualization would be particularly effective if it was embedded in a news story on the bee crisis. People who live in North Dakota and other Midwestern states may be more aware of the problem of loss of habitat than people who live in other parts of the country.  Most people have heard the story that we are loosing bees at an alarming rate many times.  This story does not just state this again, rather it gives the reason why and gives people a concrete way to help.  For local North Dakotans the story has a personal “what’s going on in my backyard” nature, and for the rest of Americans, the story educates them  on where this problem is occurring, why it is occurring, and how they can help.

Put simply, our goals for this project are to educate viewers on both the scale of this problem and the forces that are driving it, as well as to motivate them to advocate for solutions. We accomplish the first goal with the use of the power of ten technique. We are able to tell two complementary stories, the first showing the scale of this problem over time and the second showing the direct relation between the problem and the underlying cause. We accomplish the second goal with our call to action, giving viewers instructions and a direct link to support legislation that protects grassland and habitat for American Wildlife like the honey bee.