Juvenile Empowerment

The Juvenile Empowerment team is beginning the semester by finding a partnership organization that focuses on one of our many issues of interest concerning youth and crime. We are in the process of researching local organizations concerned with reducing school violence, suicide prevention, prison reform, teen drug use, sex education, civic participation, and health. Once we enter into a partnership, we will be ready to begin the solution design process!

After-School Reform Spring 2014

Kinetic’s After-School Reform group is working to change local after school programs, where currently kids are under-engaged with mandated activities and unmotivated to learn, making this valuable time with teachers and volunteers unproductive. We aspire to reform these programs by implementing fun activities that will help the children learn skills in cooperation and teamwork while also encouraging physical activity and reducing bullying. We hope these fun activities will not only make children more excited to learn in school, but outside of school as well.

Distracted Driving Spring 2014

The Distracted Driving team identified drowsy driving as one of the most pernicious forms of distracted driving, killing 1,550 and injuring 71,000 people every year. Drowsy driving is defined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission as the operation of a motor vehicle, while being cognitively impaired by a lack of sleep. This form of driving slows reaction time, decreases awareness, and impairs judgment. Sleep-deprived driving also negatively influences vision, information processing, and short-term memory while increasing irritability and aggressive behavior. Unlike other forms of distracted driving, such as driving while intoxicated or texting and driving, little is being done to prevent this dangerous and prevalent phenomenon.

It is the mission of the Distract Driving team to decrease the fatigue-related accidents and deaths by offering incentives for those who find themselves driving while cognitively impaired to get off the road. To accomplish this goal, the team plans to implement a mobile application that 1.) Makes the driver aware of how long he or she has been driving 2.) Encourages the driver to take a break and exit the vehicle for a period of time and 3.) Offers the driver an incentive to consume caffeine, a stimulant that will temporarily counteract the effects of sleep deprivation.

The incentive for this application’s use is a coupon that offers equivalency of a cup of coffee. This benefits the driver with a free or less expensive beverage, provides the coffee shop with additional business, and promotes responsible and conscientious driving.  The program trail launch will happen in the near future during a time of high traffic to or from the Williams College campus. The Distracted Driving team plans to partner with a coffee shop along one or two specific routes between Williamstown and a popular destination, such as Boston and New York. If successful, the program will expand to other campuses and regions of the country.

Water & Agriculture

The Water team has spent two semesters researching the various effects that agriculture has on the current water systems in the continent of Africa. This team represents more than any other Kinetic’s mission to give students the opportunity and necessary skills to form solutions to international issues. For this ambitious project, they have narrowed their focus to countries in the Central Africa region and are finalizing partnerships with organizations that will allow them to safely and effectively continue on-the-ground project development this summer.

Teacher Recruitment Spring 2014

Each year, an unacceptably low number of top college graduates are recruited into the teaching profession. With over half of the current teacher workforce set to retire within the next decade, the effects of stagnant recruitment are set to compound.

In Fall of 2013, the Kinetic Teacher Recruitment team began designing a program to help boost the number and quality of college students that become teachers. We based our strategy on extensive research of other well-recognized and alluring professional recruitment programs (law, medicine, etc.) and the aspects that make these popular and competitive career paths. We wanted teaching to have similar clout, and attract the most intelligent, most creative, and hardest working graduates.

Our group has chosen to focus on preparing undergraduate students with an interest in teaching for enrollment in teacher residency programs. Residency programs are competitive, professional programs that offer intensive pedagogical and practical training. The uniqueness of the residency model consistently draws the highest quality graduates, but students who would be well suited to teaching are frequently unaware of the opportunity or unprepared for these competitive preparatory programs.

We have reached out to prominent local teacher residency organizations, and plan to use these partnership to develop a combination of curriculum and fieldwork opportunities at the undergraduate level that prepare students for rigorous residency programs and provide them with experience with teaching before entering graduate school. By providing a clear path for top tier graduates to enter the teaching profession, we can secure a stable, high quality teacher workforce for years to come.

Energy Reduction Spring 2014

The Kinetic Energy Solutions team is one of three original subgroups that have moved from theoretical discussions to implementing a plan designed to have a meaningful and tangible impact. The Energy Solutions group has worked for a year to identify student behaviors and campus configurations at Williams that could be permanently modified through a combination of awareness, competition, and technology. The team has developed a model of crowd-funding and crowd-saving in which they will raise money from the student body for a college-approved project and use the money the college saves in the long-term to fund future energy-saving projects on campus. Currently, the Energy Solutions team is cooperating with faculty and other administrative members to generate new ideas; the most promising one so far is an energy awareness campaign, combined with an energy reduction competition between dorms. As the semester unfolds, the Energy Solutions group hopes to design and implement a strategy that will reduce Williams’ energy consumption and be replicable on other college campuses.

Food Insecurity Spring 2014

Kinetic’s Food Insecurity Team is addressing hunger in the Berkshires. The Food Insecurity design phase began in the spring of 2013. Through field research and collaborative problem-solving, the team developed a pay it forward program for groceries based on “suspended coffees,” a system that allows patrons of coffee shops to order drinks and small food items for themselves, and then pre-pay, or suspend items for people in their community who have difficulty affording them. This concept began in Italy and spread across Europe during the Eurozone crisis and has recently been put in place in two locations on the West Coast. Kinetic’s Food Insecurity team was inspired by this empathetic, community-oriented concept of food support and adapted it for implementation in a grocery store setting.

After two semesters of research and planning, the team is now formalizing Kinetic’s partnership supermarkets in the Berkshire region. The Food Insecurity team will offer a small menu of healthy, fresh food items, such as eggs, dairy, fruit and vegetables. The team’s initial emphasis will be on perishables, which are not as readily available in food pantries. Shoppers at these stores will be able to suspend these items, to aid other shoppers in the community who are food insecure. In the future, Kinetic plans to partner with an increasing number of grocery stores across the country and foster communities where food support is reciprocal and de-stigmatized. Ultimately, we hope to engender a self-sustaining cultural shift in the way Americans view food insecurity through this suspended groceries system.