04/24/2013 12:38 pm ET Updated Jun 24, 2013

Taking the HydRoad: Students Design Green Transportation Solutions

By Kristin Caddick, junior at Gaston Day School in Gastonia, North Carolina

If you take 450 students at an environmental conference from around the globe and sort them into 44 groups, what do you get? You get 44 different ideas with the power to be world altering solutions. Upon attending the 2013 Global Student Leaders Summit in Costa Rica, I was intimidated by the upcoming 'innovation' workshop that we were all to complete over a span of 4 hours. How were we, high school students, supposed to identify a world issue and create a solution all by ourselves? Luckily, we were introduced to a concept called 'The Design Thinking Process.'


This process is comprised of six steps to guide you through the journey of change: Identify (What are the different ways we can consider the implications of this scenario?), Empathy (Who is the audience affected by this problem and why?), Define (What is your team's design challenge?), Ideate (What is your solution to the challenge?), Prototype, (What does your solution look like?) and Evolve (How will you share this idea with the world?). These steps are applicable to almost every situation in life and create a clear path for navigating your way to a practical solution.

About five groups had to tackle the challenge of transportation. Our prompt gave us a scenario of a congested school in which student pick-up and drop-off was inefficient, causing pollution, inconvenient, and dangerous for the students. EF encouraged us to think wildly outside the box, regardless of the outcome. As CEO of EF Tours, Dr. Edward Hult stressed to us, "You have to take the fear out of the failure."

My group embraced the newfound freedom and developed the idea of a 'Hydroad School.' We created a 3D model of a school built on top of a lake. Connecting to the school would be man-made canals in which students would ride gondola type boats onto the campus.


These boats would run partially by the students using pedals like a paddle boat and by electricity that would run through a wire connected to the boat. Students would also have the option to walk to school. All of these changes reduce the environmental impact from cars, provide exercise for students and faculty, is time efficient, and cost effective.


Another group created a solution called the eco-wheel, which was focused around reducing one's carbon footprint. Through social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and iPhone apps, the group's solution would work to change the attitude and behaviors of students and parents. Their plan also included a website where one could be educated on and choose a reduced impact solution for modes of transportation. Along with weekly promotions, the idea included a cupcake program to serve as an incentive to participate. Other options included were carpool systems and a pay-to-park license fee to raise money to build bike racks at the school.


The diverse group of 450 students attending the summit banding together to solve problems within society has been a gratifying experience for all of us. We've been inspired by some of the environment's most prominent advocates, mentored by EF's supportive staff, all the while breaking down cultural barriers. Now, we're all eager to apply our knowledge to our own communities and rise to the challenge of being a true global leader.

All of us traveling to Costa Rica are excited to experience a new culture and share our ideas with students from around the world through EF's Summit! Follow us on Twitter at #EFSummit or on Facebook at

About the Global Student Leaders Summit Series
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and EF Education First, in recognition of the 2013 EF Global Student Leaders Summit in Costa Rica (April 20 and 21). Each year, the EF Global Student Leaders Summit brings together hundreds of high school students and teachers from around the world for experiential learning tours and a leadership and innovation conference to help the next generation of leaders understand and solve critical global issues. Learn more about EF Education First and the Global Student Leaders Summit.