Reality Check

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WPI Students Jon Gaffen, John Fitzpatrick, and Andrew Bennett

One of the prototype projects that came out of the brainstorming at the Summit was an idea the participants called a “Viral Video Challenge.” College students would mentor middle-school students and help them produce videos to enter into a contest. The target audiences would include university professors, college students, junior high students, and ultimately, parents, siblings, and friends to vote for their videos, who would pass along the sustainability message creating a viral outreach effect.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute professors Robert Krueger and John Orr (a member of the original steering committee) made the introduction to a team of engineering students studying sustainability at WPI.  Here are their impressions of the experience:

John Fitzpatrick
“Our Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP) sponsored by Green2Growth consists of planning a program for local middle schools in order to promote sustainable living in Worcester. The Viral Video Challenge involves three steps;

  1. Educating local middle school students on sustainability.
  2. Helping the students produce videos that display what they learned and that are enjoyable to watch.
  3. Using various social media to maximize exposure of these videos and potentially make them go viral.

“By working on this project, I have learned about how eager Worcester’s community is to help the environment. Nearly every person I have talked to about this project has shown their support and thanked me for my work. As part of our project, we interviewed the headmaster of the Bancroft School, the principal of Holy Name, a local marketing consultant, a professor of education at Worcester State, and three employees of National Grid.  They were elated to hear that our team was taking steps to make Worcester a more sustainable city.  All of these individuals are well aware of the grim impacts that the emission of greenhouse gases have on the environment and they are happy to assist in making the world a more sustainable place.

“On a practical basis we found the most challenging aspect was finding a school and teacher who would work with us on prototyping the concept in their classroom.  Although our team will not be implementing the project this term, we are working closely with Green2Growth in order to provide a future team with the tools they’ll need to succeed. “

Lesson number one: find a well-connected champion from the educational community to open the necessary doors or find another venue to host the project.

Andrew Bennett
“To help us develop our curriculum, we visited National Grid’s Worcester office to discuss sustainable energy and smart grid technology. We went into ask just a few questions on Worcester’s energy consumption and CO2 output, only to learn so much more. Our experience at National Grid was great and it really taught us things that we didn’t know about smart grid technology.

“They also provided us with a packet of information that gave us many facts to put into the viral videos that will be produced. We look forward for working with them in the future.”

Lesson number two: it takes two-way conversations to even begin to learn what you don’t know.

Jon Gaffen
“The marketing plan is an essential element for the project’s success. In order to fully understand the key concepts that make an idea successful in social media our group contacted Shari Worthington, a local marketing consultant. Shari explained to us that in order to grab the attention of the local population we would have to focus our ideas.

“Something that is important to one group of people might not necessarily be as important to another. This train of thought led us to reevaluating our initial approach. We looked at social networks beyond YouTube to see if we could generate interest with varied groups.  We also could use traditional channels like flyers, local press, and advertising on Worcester Public School sites to generate attention for the videos.”

Lesson number three: varied traditional vehicles can drive traffic to social media properties.

If you think you might like to play a role in taking this project to the next step, please sign up using the Get Involved form.

About John Odell

Energy Efficiency and Conservation Manager – City of Worcester: John has over 20 years of experience in the energy field. He is currently the City of Worcester’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Manager and is responsible for managing many of the City’s ‘green’ initiatives, including the City’s $27M ESCo project with Honeywell International, MA Green Community sub-grant and outreach program, Federal EECBG grant program, the City’s municipal energy contracts, research and grant writing for additional funding opportunities, and all energy related community outreach and partnership efforts. Before coming to Worcester he worked as the Energy Services and Communications Administrator for the Town of Concord, MA Municipal Light Plant. His accomplishments include the American Public Power Association’s 2005 National Energy Innovator Award.
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