Helping HS Chaperones Get the Most Out of “The Road to Nowhere”

Team: Rubez Chong, Melinda Salaman, Viki Silva, Sarah Von Anh

Our Data
Our team decided to use the CDC online database that shares the data on foodborne outbreaks that result in illnesses, hospitalizations, and death in the United States. We wanted to build an informative map aimed at travelers from outside the U.S. who are embarking on a cross-country road trip for the first time. We wanted to tell this story because it brings the data points to life, and makes it feel relevant to the user – as they are excited about a first-time trip, they can also keep precautions in mind to fully enjoy the journey without falling prey to foodborne illness or worse.

Our Audience
We are assuming the role of an international organization like the Rotary Club that sends groups of high school students each year to the U.S. for a few weeks in the summer. Our primary audience for this presentation are the planners and chaperones of these student trips: teachers, parents, and other adults are in charge of keeping groups of high school students safe during their travels. While the chaperones ultimately have final say on the restaurants and eating establishments they take their student groups to, we as members of the sponsor organization want to be sure that all students return home healthy. With that in mind, we are concerned about foodborne illnesses and infectious diseases.

Our goal is to educate chaperones, warn them of potential dangers, and present them with practical, actionable advice on how to keep their student groups healthy.

Our Approach
We wanted to use the map of the United States in a creative and purposeful way. After brainstorming common cases where a map is necessary, interesting, and additive, we ultimately settled on a road trip, where one needs driving directions to get from point A to point B. With that in mind, we researched popular road trips across the U.S. and found resources with routes that transversed multiple states. It goes without saying that there are many, many options; we decided to focus on “The Road to Nowhere”, a route that goes through the midwest from North Dakota to Texas as an example for this sketch.

More than just driving directions, we also wanted to use this map as a field guide for chaperones: we would highlight points of interest they are visiting along the route and the associated health hazards and recommendations we have related to each stop.

After checking in with Rahul during the last class working session, we decided to create an interactive slide deck instead of a dashboard/map. We made this decision after considering what was the best format for our audience. Bearing in mind the amount of content we thought necessary for chaperones to see and digest, we decided it was too much information to put into a dashboard. On the other hand, a slide deck is easily usable by teachers and chaperones of all levels of comfort with technology, can be easily disseminated via email or in print, and is a medium that our audience is comfortable and familiar with.


Close-Up on “The Road to Nowhere”

Stop #1: Knife River Indian Villages (ND): Person-to-person; The Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site, which was established in 1974, preserves the historic and archaeological remnants of bands of Hidatsa, Northern Plains Indians. This area was a major trading and agricultural area. Three villages were known to occupy the Knife area.

Stop #2: Sitting Bull Memorial (SD): Food; The Sitting Bull Monument is located about seven miles southwest of Mobridge. Chief Sitting Bull, or Tatanka Iyotake, was a Hunkpapa Teton Sioux spiritual leader. In the 1870s, Sitting Bull had relocated to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation near the Grand River in present day Corson County.

Stop #3: Buffalo Bill Rodeo (NE): Person-to-person; The Nebraskaland Days Buffalo Bill Rodeo will be held on Wednesday, June 12th – Saturday, June 15th, 2019 in North Platte, Nebraska. This North Platte rodeo is held at Wild West ARena and hosted by Beutler & Son Rodeo Co.

Stop #4: OzFest (Liberal, KS): Person-to-person / Food; Come celebrate the Anniversary of the movie “The Wizard of Oz” at Dorothy’s House and the Land of Oz. The day will include live entertainment, games, costume contests, food and fun!

Stop #5: Remember the Alamo! (TX): Person-to-person; The Alamo Mission in San Antonio, commonly called The Alamo and originally known as the Misión San Antonio de Valero, is a historic Spanish mission and fortress compound founded in the 18th century by Roman Catholic missionaries in what is now San Antonio, Texas, United States.

Stop #6: South Padre Island (TX): Person-to-person; South Padre Island is a resort town on a barrier island of the same name, off the southern coast of Texas. It’s known for its beaches and calm waters. South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center is home to a 5-story watchtower with views of migrating birds. The South Padre Island Dolphin Research & Sealife Nature Center offers boat tours and touch tanks. Sea turtles are rescued and rehabilitated at Sea Turtle Inc.

Data Creation on a Typical Weekend Day

Over the course of a Saturday in Cambridge, I create the following data simply by living and conducting my regular activities:

  • How long I sleep and what time I wake up, based on when I set and turn my alarm on the previous night, and what time I finally stop the alarm in the morning
  • News and public information I consume, given that I usually start my day reading the latest on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Apple News.
  • Which friends I check up on and engage with, based on whose Instagram pictures and Stories I view and ‘like’, as well as WhatsApp and Slack messages I read and respond to
  • Based on my email reading, sorting, and responses:
    • Topics and senders I think are important by marking them with ‘star’ in Gmail
    • Topics and senders I think are unimportant by immediately putting them in ‘Trash’ in my Gmail
    • Topics and senders I am deprioritizing / procrastinating on by reading the message and then later marking as “unread” in Gmail
  • Where I tend to spend my time, based on the location of my iPhone
  • My exercise, since my phone must have tracked my 22-story walk up my apartment stairs when the elevator was down
  • My spending patterns, after buying items and food throughout the day
  • My eating patterns, after logging food consumption / calories in my MyFitnessPal app
  • My television preferences, based on Netflix viewing in the evening
  • My musical preferences, based on Pandora playlist listening, song ratings, and time spent listening throughout the day
  • My attachment to my phone / anticipation of information from my regular checking of the lock-screen to see if a new text message appeared, or checking Instagram, Facebook, Slack, and Email to see if new messages appeared throughout the day
  • My transportation movements and price sensitivity via Uber and Lyft checking, requests, and tips
  • My movements around the MIT campus, via student ID card swipes and iPhone location tracking

Mass Incarceration Graphic from the ACLU

Link to data visualization from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU):

I picked the linked data visualization about mass incarceration in the United States for a few reasons: first, the topic itself is of interest to me. Secondly, this is an example of a non-profit organization trying to call the attention of the general public to facts that are uncomfortable and at times unbelievable, which presents an interesting challenge to grab their attention and then deliver a message that motivates them to act on the information provided.

Looking at the infographic, there are a few choices the author made that make it difficult to fully understand the information delivered, as well as things s/he got right. I’ll pick two as examples:

  • Mistake: color and icon choices in the first quarter of the infographic. The author of the piece chose to use a row of 10 stars to represent the total global population and then again 10 stars to represent the total global prison population. Given that this is an infographic about the United States (signaled by the red, white, and blue colors throughout and the stars and stripes motif), I expected the denominator of each statistic shared to be the total selected U.S. population, and it was not, requiring more reading. Furthermore, the decision to represent the United States’ share of the global population in gray in the first row of stars was confusing (I typically think of gray coloring in a graphic as empty, rather than filled in…especially on a gray background). This is particularly true when in the next row of stars immediately following, the United States’ share of the global prison population is shown in red.

    Suggested fix: Use other icons (perhaps people? Globes?) to represent the total global populations of interest, and use consistent coloring when highlighting the same country of interest (in this case, the United States).

  • Well-done: The points made with the prison building graphic and the barbed wire fence spending graphic are clear and digestible. It was clear to me by looking at the illustrated prison building and reading the legend beneath it that roughly half of all prisoners are incarcerated for non-violent offenses (shown in blue) and half are jailed for violent offenses (shown in red). Looking just below, the author of the piece also did a good job showing that spending over time for corrections has grown much faster relative to spending on higher education.

    Suggested improvement: I think the point about spending would have been made more real if there were numbers attached to the values of each bar in the bar chart. Though it is clear to see that the red bars (corrections spending) are higher than the blue bars (higher education spending), as a reader I’m left wondering how that gap has widened over time, and just how much we’re spending on incarceration in this country.

Looking at the infographic holistically, I fear that the main point (or points) are buried in a sea of information that is difficult to read through and digest quickly. Given that the audience for this infographic is the general public, the ACLU should revise this piece with the intent of making a few salient, related points using clear graphics that capture the challenge or teaching point they are trying to convey.