Iowa BIG Feature

Sarah Altemeier, Editor-in-Chief

Iowa BIG is a project-based learning program that works to implement students’ passions and interests to drive learning. Students deal with real life problems and have opportunities to work with people and businesses in our community. While seminars about topics like statistics, economics, and psychology are offered for high school credit, students are also able to develop and join projects that reflect students’ interests and our community’s issues.

Thirty-seven Washington students attend Iowa BIG and participate in a multitude of projects. The next few pages look further into depth on the following five projects; Bots for Tots, Developing Refugee Curriculum, VR War Train, C3 Coe Campuswide Compost, and Community Dinners. Read to find out more about the hard work of a handful of BIG students.

-Bots for Tots

The group who work on Bots for Tots include Ethan Traugh ’18 and Kellen Ochs ’19. This project is essentially a computer robot that snags online apparel and resells them for a higher price, much like a hypebeast, but to donate to charities rather than for personal profit.

“Bots for Tots is a non-profit that takes advantage of a poisonous street brand secondary market. We build computer programs to buy clothes instantly and resell them for ridiculous profits that we can then give to charities of our choice,” said Traugh, a third-year BIG student.

“Clothing companies will release their clothes in scarcity to help grow the hype around its’ brand. This scarcity helps fuel a secondary market where people will pay two to three times the amount of items retail cost. The hive-minded hype helps then to fuel the demand of the clothing,” he added.


-Developing Refugee Curriculum

Ava Klopfenstein and Elizabeth McDermott, both ’18, joined Iowa BIG this school year and are working on a project to help refugees in the community and, more even, around the world.

“Our team is currently working to create a curriculum that informs high school students about the plight of refugees and, more importantly, helps the students take action to help refugees in their community and around the world. This curriculum is in conjunction with Rock Your World. RYW is a curriculum centered on educating students on human rights and then helping them become young activists. It has been used by over one million students in 72 different countries. Working with the foundation that created this massive curriculum is absolutely incredible. The best part is that every time we talk to them, they reassure us that, once finished, the curriculum we create will become an integral part of their website. Many of my passions lie in the realm of human rights, and I love that my project at Iowa BIG helps me tap into those passions every single day,” said McDermott.


-Vr War Train

Three Wash students, Madie Baird, ’18, Imanuel Rowland, ’19, and Ochs are apart of a project called, “VR War Train.”

To make a virtual reality world, the team uses different softwares to program and formulate a model to provide people with an experience on a war train. “VR War Train is a partnership with the Czech and Slovak Museum. They want us to create a virtual reality experience for what life was like on a war train during World War 1. It’s really cool. There is a book, The Dreams of a Great Small Nation, that we’re basing our story on,” said Ochs, a second-year BIG student.

This exhibit will be on display during the Spring of 2018, so make sure to check it out.


-C3 Coe Campuswide Compost

In this project, students analyze the waste flow of the Coe Campus and give their input on how to deal with it. Jill Hughes, ’19, Max Stark, ’18, and Olivia Kennedy, ’19, all participate in this project. “We are responsible for designing and presenting a project proposal for composting facility at Coe College. We’ve researched composting thoroughly, and we’ve taken steps at Coe, for example, we did a waste audit where we counted the amounts of trash, recyclables, and compostable materials, in Coe’s dumpsters, to put together the best idea for Coe regarding what to do with their organic waste,” said Kennedy, a first-year student.

“I really like that I get to work with high schoolers on something of this scale and importance to Coe. It’s crazy to think that they trust high schoolers with this major project,” she said.


-Community Dinners

The project, “Community Dinners” was an idea by Sophie Fox ’18, and Serena Eck ’18 is also a member of this project.

“So I decided to create monthly community potluck dinners. The goal of these dinners is to foster a better sense of community among a diverse crowd of people. I created the project because I feel like we don’t always have much contact with people who are different than us, whether those differences are race, religion, or how you’ve grown up,” said Fox, a second-year BIG student.  

These dinners are scheduled to start mid-January and hopefully taking place at the Catherine McCauley Center.