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FateMaker Sustainability Project Accelerator

Help students build real sustainability solutions - which other kids can then modify, allowing good ideas to evolve and spread.

Photo of Peder Hill
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Written by

I am a.....

  • Teacher
  • NGO founder

Tell us about your idea

FateMaker will enable students and teachers to both develop and implement real-life sustainability solutions. FateMaker is a two semester collaboration between Kids Save Ocean, a teacher-founded NGO:, and Hack4Impact, a team of seven UIUC students who create robust software for social good:

Integrating Human-Centered Design & Social Entrepreneurship

Fatemaker helps users build sustainability projects, a process guided by two of the most powerful solution-building approaches: human-centered design and the Silicon Valley’s lean startup approach. It's currently a working prototype after one semester; further development will add Artificial Intelligence (AI). 

AI will Power FateMaker to Learn and Spread

To have real impact moving schools toward sustainability, solutions must be effortlessly implemented by teachers and students, readily replicable, and able to evolve: a web of easily accessible, cross-fertilizing experiments that adapt locally and improve through time. The app will be powered by a mixture of indexing, machine-learning and a user rating system, allowing users to design their own projects while guided by a wealth of resources: best practices, potential partners, typical roadblocks and good advice, creating an ever-evolving tool to facilitate innovation, inclusiveness, transparency, participation, partnership and progress. 

Youth Build Sustainable Solutions and Skills

The platform's projects can run independently of school, while teachers - or anybody else - can follow students as they develop projects. Because sustainability issues are multi-disciplinary, the platform can be used by students studying in a wide variety of classes, and can be integrated into many areas of school: regular classes, cross-curricular projects, science fairs and sustainability impact hub school clubs. It will be simple enough for kids to use, but open to anybody interested in developing sustainability solutions. The platform’s solutions and data could further echo impact in the future by being incorporated into a broad range of education, business and policy tools. And the skills kids learn will be highly sought after in the future. 

Research Behind It

Sustainability challenges are often called “wicked problems” because they involve a mixture of societal, economic, environmental and cultural forces: they are really very complicated and difficult to solve. Human Centered Design‘s user-centered process, which is collaborative, creative and rigorous, has proven extremely effective for solving wicked problems. Cooperative learning, itself a research-proven learning approach, fits perfectly with Human Centered Design.

Incorporating Lessons from a Sustainability Accelerator Class

Before building the FateMaker platform, I taught a high school sustainability impact accelerator class, the lessons of which strongly influenced its development. One of the learning outcomes included what's called transformative learning, where student reflections during the process of building sustainability projects lead them to reevaluate and change their own behaviours.  See the syllabus here:

I've been asked to write an article about the class for a Springer Nature journal about sustainability and learning. 

Draft product requirements document to get an idea of what FateMaker will be:

What part(s) of the pre-COVID school system do you wish to leave in the past? Why?

Enough "practicing" for life, let kids build real solutions to global problems. I've been teaching art and biology to middle and high school students for nearly 20 years. I know how extraordinary capable young people are, and feel that school should empower them to develop their own real solutions to social and environmental problems in their schools and communities - it's one of the most inspiring ways they can learn. And as the world drifts toward climate disaster and continues on an unsustainable path, we desperately need their ideas, perspectives and contributions. We need their help. An example of what can happen when you empower them: Our NGO began when we held the Children's Clean Ocean Summit at the UN in Vienna. It was run entirely by the kids, who wrote the Children's Clean Ocean Declaration, which we then sent to every world leader. Twenty-one Presidents, Prime Ministers and Kings and a Queen personally responded to their efforts. Even a Knight - Sir Attenborough.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to share this idea.

As a father and biologist, I'm frightened for the future of our planet and its inhabitants. But as a teacher, I know what kids can do if given the chance. The core goal of our NGO is to give kids a voice in the world. If you recognise this project, that goal will get a tremendous boost and help this sustainability accelerator platform grow quicker and wider than we could have ever dreamed of. 

And our other technologies will probably also get a boost:

FateChanger app (beta for iPhone) empowers both students and teachers across the world to tackle plastic ocean pollution, climate change and sustainability by learning about the issues then lobbying governments to revolutionise their approaches to the problems. 

Trailer for app:

Spin Closet – we're also building an anti-fast-fashion cloths trading app targeted at students within individual schools. Prototype:

What region are you located in?

  • Europe

Where are you located?

I live in Vienna, Austria, though I'm from Santa Cruz, California. Vienna is one of the gems of Europe, and I'm so grateful my family and I live here. With old world architecture, cheap public transport and medical insurance for all, it's filled with music, theatre and so many art galleries and green spaces. However, I'd go home to Santa Cruz and surfing in a heartbeat if I could.


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