Blog 3: Why do we waste perfectly good food?

Nobody wants to eat the mushy apple or the banana that has gone brown. Most people stay clear of fruit and vegetables that have reached the end of their peak, but just because a fruit or vegetable has gone soft doesn’t mean it necessarily can’t be eaten. The National Resources Defense Council (NDRC) published a paper stating that 6 Billion pounds of perfectly good fruit and vegetables are wasted each year, just because they are ugly looking. 

When you take a step back and look at the amount of perfectly good food that goes to waste, you start to question how this could be. But the answer is all very clear, think about it. When you’re buying broccoli at the grocery store, why would you pick the lopsided, strangely colored one if there’s a beautiful, symmetrical broccoli tree right next to it?

Humans have the innate attraction to physically appealing things. Starting as young as two or three, human beings start to gravitate toward attractive things. The process of choosing attractive things is part of our biology, our genetic makeup. Additionally, individuals that live in western countries like our own have the misconception that strange looking food is bad. We live in a society that cares more about how food looks than what it actually tastes like. How many times have you heard a child say, “I’m not eating that, it looks weird.” Our biological makeup and tendencies to choose physically attractive things have caused more damage than we realize.

UNEP reports that 1.3 billion tons of food worldwide are wasted every year.  To put a visual to this, a small car weighs about 1 ton.  That’s like saying that we waste 1.3 billion Toyota Prius’s worth of food every year.

So what can we do about this? Tristram Stuart addresses the issue of the massive amount of waste of “unappealing” food. Stuart calls for “a more responsible use of global resources” in his TED Talk by suggesting ways in which we can make fruits and vegetables physically attractive for a longer period of time. By making them more attractive for longer, we can make the food last for longer and reduce the amount of wasted food.

As I begin researching for my Food Reduction Waste App, one thing is very clear. It is our intention to create an app that helps to reduce the amount of food waste and the need for an app like ours is vital at a time like this.

Blog Post 2: Issues regarding learning styles

This past Friday we had a guest lecturer, Jesse Martin, who said something to us that stuck with me. He said that, “we all learn the same way.” I was confused by his statement until someone asked, “So how do people learn?” He explained that we start out with information that becomes knowledge. We embed that knowledge by putting it in our brain in a way it can be retrieved, by making neural connections. The more connections we make the more information we can store in our brains.

Mr. Martin was talking about the biological process of learning. While his answer may be true, I think it is very clear that we all have different learning styles. Whether we’ve discovered our style of learning yet or not, it is obvious that there are many different styles of learning and it is likely that you prefer one style over another. So what are these different learning styles? The three main learning styles are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic (or physical). Watch the video below for more details about each:

Author and speaker, Sarah Gibson, tell us a little more about how to understand individual learning styles. It is vital for teachers and to be able to detect the learning styles of their students in order to understand how their students learn best.

Okay, so what does all of this have to do with classrooms of the future? I believe that classrooms of the future must incorporate our individual learning styles into teaching. There are several possible ways of doing so:

  1. Create a test that allows us to understand our learning style. This test would be administered at the beginning of each school year and students would be separated into classrooms with individuals alike, and teachers can be consistent with their teaching styles.
  2. Robot-like teachers. Okay, bear with me here. As Sarah Gibson explained, there are different tricks to understanding individual learning style. While it would be great for teachers to be able to use these tricks to unravel each student’s learning style, this would be extremely time-consuming. Instead, what if we developed a teacher (or some type of technology a teacher could use to quickly analyze the way in which each student learns. The one drawback here is that we run into the problem of students becoming dependent on one learning style.
  3. Teach students to be versatile learners. Although we may learn better one way rather than another, it is unlikely that every situation in life will allow you to choose which style of teaching is used. In future classrooms, it could be important for us to teach students how to use each style of learning so that students are not tied down to one learning style. How should we do this? I’m not quite sure about this part yet, but I’m sure you guys have some ideas!


Blog 1: My personal experience with the engineering design process

After I started reading INTEGRATING INFORMATION into the ENGINEERING DESIGN PROCESS, edited by Michael Fosmire and David Radcliffe, I began to think about why certain ideas succeed while others fail miserably. Is success something we learn in the classroom? The world is full of brilliant people with brilliant ideas. We’ve all heard of successful smartphone apps like Uber, Waze, and Tinder. I’ve always wondered where these individuals started from and why their ideas succeeded. INTEGRATING INFORMATION into the ENGINEERING DESIGN PROCESS defines ten strategies for design success:

1.Define the real problem or need
2. Work as a team
3. Use the right tools
4. Communicate effectively
5. Get the concept right
6. Keep it simple
7. Make functions clear
8. Make safety inherent
9. Select appropriate materials and parts
10. Ensure that the details are correct

For the most part, I agree with these ten strategies for design success, but I think that the process can be simplified. After doing a little research, I found that different experts have different explanations for why a certain company succeeds. Entrepreneur Bill Gross explains that timing is the most important factor in his TEDTalk “The single biggest reason why startups succeed”.

If timing really is the most important factor in the success of a business, then is there even a way to teach the process of building a successful business? Classrooms of the future need to teach a clear and concise engineering design process in order to teach students how to design successful ideas. I wouldn’t call myself an entrepreneur, but after working in a startup this past summer in Israel I really began to understand the process of designing a successful project. This process is the process I believe classrooms of the future need to teach their students:

1. Find a problem or need that you’re interested in

Whether you go looking for one or stumble upon one on your own, every startup begins with a problem. We live in a world that’s constantly changing and with every change comes new problems. If you’re looking to start your own startup, you’ll want to find a problem that is relevant to you and your interests. Creating a solution to solve something you are interested in forces you to be more determined to help solve the problem.

2. Research the problem

Of course researching your problem is next. Maybe you aren’t the only one with this problem. Maybe someone else is trying to find a solution to it as well. Maybe there is a solution to it already. Talk to potential customers. Find out what’s already out there and figure out a way to make your product succeed.

3. Communicate effectively by asking questions and seeking guidance from others

The startup I worked at this past summer was located in what is called a “startup hub”. A startup hub is an office place where individuals with bright ideas can begin to develop a startup company. One of the unique parts about a startup hub is that they allow for the founders of different startups to get together, toss around ideas, and get feedback from others attempting to start their own company. Clearly, you will not have all the answers that will make your product succeed, so asking others is a great way to find out what will and will not work for your startup.