We, the Science Olympics Club, decided to investigate and try to solve three main issues: bicycle lines' misuse, acequias (a kind of ditch our province has to distribute water) getting clogged and flooding our streets, and animal-vehicle collisions.
A few years ago, in a small town of Mendoza, Argentina, some students decided to gather in what became the Science Olympics Club; the first official club of Saint George’s School. The purpose of this club was to get involved in as many opportunities as we could to try to make a difference, and because of this, we got engaged with Renault’s Your Ideas, Your Initiatives challenge. Our club, consisting of eleven voluntaries of ages from 14 to 16, decided to focus on three aspects that we believed damaged mobility and traffic security in our hometown of Chacras de Coria: animal-vehicle collisions, acequias’ floods, and cycle paths’ misuse.
- Animal-vehicle collisions: we decided this issue needed attention after our online survey showed us that more than the 50% of the people interviewed had seen dead animals in the routes we normally transit to go to school. Not only do countless animals become victims of car crashes, but we end up with many human victims as well, in cars that do their best to avoid hitting a misplaced animal. Because of this, the Science Olympics Club decided to find a solution to this recurrent problem, in an attempt to improve road safety.
- Acequias’ floods: we considered it a frequent issue present in most of our town’s roads, damaging citizens’ wishes to circulate. Acequias, a kind of ditch used in Mendoza to transport water, are nowadays filled with all sorts of garbage and natural waste, and given to their lack of maintenance and cleaning, water starts flooding our streets and highways. Saint George´s Science Club carried out an online survey to find out people’s opinion in the matter, and our thoughts were confirmed by the fact that 93,5% of those who were surveyed answered they felt affected in negative ways by acequias flooding and disturbing mobility.
- Cycle paths’ misuse: we found out through our online survey that this issue is clearly intensified in the Ruta Panamericana, which happens to be the route where our school is located in. Since 90% of those who were surveyed claimed they had seen cyclists driving in the road/highway (even when there are cycle paths available), we chose to focus our project on this particular area. Cyclists who don’t follow transit laws make accidents more prone to happen, and therefore, we concluded that we needed to improve education concerning cycle paths’ correct use and raise awareness, so that we are able to protect cars, bicycles and pedestrians.
The Science Olympics Club chose to carry out the following initiatives to try to solve these recurrent issues in our neighbourhood:
1) Animal-vehicle collisions:
- We organised an assembly in Saint George´s high school, attended by every present faculty member and by all high school students, in which we talked about animal-vehicle collisions, reinforcing the importance of paying attention to those roads that have specific signs for the matter.
- We carried out an awareness campaign by designing and hanging posters throughout our school. These posters contained some valuable information extracted from our survey results, with the purpose of creating conscientization among our students, which could be transmitted to the drivers in their families or friends.
- We developed a “plan of action” to solve this issue, consisting in the implementation of grates in highways that go through urban areas (where the highest number of animal-vehicle collisions has been counted); the improvement of education concerning the matter; and in the reduction of speed limits in zones where these accidents usually take place.
- We sent a letter, containing the plan of action we developed, to “Dirección Provincial de Vialidad”, this way, we hoped our concerns would be heard, given that not only did we inform them about the issue, but we also presented a way to solve it.
2) Acequias’ floods:
- We obtained permission to go class per class, talking with students of all ages about how important it is for us to keep acequias clean. We focused on highlighting how fundamental it is to our province for that water to remain clean and usable; and how harmful it is for traffic and pedestrians when acequias produce floods.
- We carried out an awareness campaign by designing and hanging posters throughout our school. These posters contained some valuable information extracted from our survey results, with the purpose of creating conscientization among our students, which could also be transmitted to their families or friends.
- We all drove to a main highway in Chacras de Coria and chose to spend a whole Saturday cleaning the garbage we found in the acequias. By the end of the day, we cleaned around 100 metres of acequias, and collected more than fifteen bags full of waste such as plastic bottles, different sorts of pamphlets, leaves and food packagings.
- Since our survey showed us that most people believed taking care of acequias should be a collaboration between citizens and the government, besides the awareness campaigns, we decided to involve the government. We sent our letter to the department in charge of Acequias (Departamento General de Irrigación), sharing the people’s concerns and wishes, hoping we’ll be able to get a response from them soon.
3) Cycle paths’ misuse:
- We investigated traffic laws, trying to understand the correct use we should be giving to bicycle tracks.
- We carried out an awareness campaign by designing and hanging posters throughout our school. These posters contained some valuable information extracted from our survey results, with the purpose of creating conscientization among our students, which could be transmitted to all bicycle drivers in their families or friends.
- We organized a talk with 4th grade students of primary school, in which we informed them about our project, and began a conversation about cycle paths. After asking them if they knew what cycle paths were, we communicated the issue we had been investigating, trying to educate nine-year-old kids about the right way they should be used. By this initiative, we hoped for small kids to learn from young ages how cyclists should be respected by cars, and how bikes should drive through the paths created specifically for them. Besides, we incentivized them to talk with their parents, asking them about their relationship with this matter, and transmitting what they had learned in school.
- After the assembly with 4th grade, we organized a fun afternoon with them, filled with different interactive games in which they either represented cars or bicycles. The purpose of these activities was for kids to enjoy, but at the same time to incarnate the main characters of the issue we are facing right outside our school.