Every day, we hear about more and more issues in all aspects of society. Often we want to help, but don’t know where or how to start, so instead, we’re left stressed out. Compassion fatigue is when our brains are overloaded from constantly worrying about everything.

As high schoolers, we’ve often experienced this feeling. The only way to combat compassion fatigue is to spread awareness and create change. We want to show children of all ages that they have the ability to create a direct impact on their communities.

Eutrophication is excessive amounts of nutrients in an ecosystem, leading to negative effects such as excessive growth of algae and oxygen depletion in the sea. This is often accelerated by human activities and pollution. One of our team members became interested after discovering eutrophication in a river that ran through her hometown, and she reached out to a local environmental non-profit and lobbied local farmers. This experience empowered her and helped her realize that youth, too, can effect change.

“WRI’s research has found that one of the primary impediments to effectively addressing eutrophication is lack of public awareness of what eutrophication is, what its impacts are, the causes and drivers of eutrophication, and the extent to which freshwater and coastal ecosystems experience eutrophication. ” - World Research Institute

What it does

YOU-trophication is a youth education and advocacy platform that teaches students about the effects of eutrophication and empowers them to mobilize change.

We have 3 tracks available: one for children, teenagers, and adults. Elementary students can play our multiplayer game and learn the basics about this harmful phenomenon with their peers. Older students can learn the details behind eutrophication and follow our lesson plan to try and prevent it from occurring in their communities. Adults can find and contact their local representatives.

How we built it

  • 2D multiplayer, tile-based strategy game created in Unity, with a mix of original and CC-licensed pixel art.
  • Contact-Your-Local-Representative feature created with Google Civics API
  • Live map illustrating eutrophic, hypoxic, and improved hypoxic areas created with Google Maps API
  • Live news feed created with Google News API
  • Original curriculum written from online research

Challenges we ran into

  • Eutrophication was a new topic for all of us --> we spent many hours researching during the event.
  • Eutrophication is not a well known environmental issue --> we had to dig deep into Google’s APIs and open data to find relevant data that we could use to build our site.
  • None of us knew much about game development --> one of our members ended up studying a course during the day while simultaneously working with us.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

Despite coming from different high schools across the country and having a limited knowledge of environmental science, we were able to work together to build a site from the ground up. For one member of our team, it was her first hackathon. A majority of our site was composed of tools we were just exposed to, and we are proud to have been able to learn everything in a day and still present a working project.

What we learned

  • How to research and find reliable/valuable information efficiently.
  • How to prioritize information and apply research in applicable contexts.
  • ...and literally everything about Unity
  • ...and that pixel art is hard to make
  • ….and how fast strangers can become friends (✿◠‿◠)

What's next for YOU-trophication

As more and more students use our website, we will be able to build a network where students can connect with one another and contact politicians to implement legal measures in order to prevent eutrophication from occurring on large scales. We also hope to include a campaign feature in which students can collect funds and sponsorships in order to obtain resources, whether it is political leverage, talking to local farms, or supporting environmental organizations. This way, we can build community around this massive issue and give back to our earth.

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