Eight Million Yogurt Containers Promote Students' Game

Contact: WPI Media Relations, 508-831-5616

WORCESTER, Mass. - What's the greenest option for buying a house? Is it a new, environmentally conscious structure or an existing home brought up to current standards?

The answer is in The Great Green Web Game, an interactive pastime on the World Wide Web devised by Worcester Polytechnic Institute students Matthew Currier and Roland Smith.

Currier, a junior majoring in computer science, is a resident of Campton, N.H., and Smith, a senior biology major, comes from Rockport, Mass. Their Great Green Web Game leads players around a cyberspace game board. The more questions you answer correctly, the faster you go.

The game is part of a promotion for a new book, "The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices," produced by the WPI students' project sponsors, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The book hits the shelves, appropriately, on Earth Day, April 22.

The UCS findings are often surprising. "The book sweeps away confusion over what matters and doesn't matter for the environment," said co-author and UCS deputy director Dr. Warren Leon. "No one should feel guilty about modest use of such things as spray cans, paper napkins and polystyrene cups."The Great Green Web Game is an enjoyable way for people of all ages to learn about the world they live in. In fact, it has captured the attention of one environmentally friendly company, Stonyfield Farm Yogurt.

"The game will be featured, along with the book, on 8 million yogurt lids for six weeks, starting in April," Smith said. "The game will also be promoted in the Stonyfield Farm newsletter that reaches about 600,000 people."

The WPI students created the Great Green Web Game to complete a WPI academic requirement called the Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP).

IQPs aim to make fledgling scientists aware of their responsibilities to manage technology effectively and ethically. The project was advised by WPI associate professor of chemical engineering David DiBiasio and assistant professor of computer science Mark Claypool. "I think this game is an excellent example of how our project system can benefit many parties," said DiBiasio.

Currier agreed it helped him both personally and academically. "This particular project presented a great opportunity to combine my major field with a chance to learn about the effects I may have on the environment, just by being a consumer," he said. "By doing this project, I have learned that even just standing by and doing nothing to actively harm the environment, I still have an impact. I guess it could be called another 'cost of living.'"

The game is already a hit for users logging on to play. One college teacher wrote to the UCS with this unsolicited commendation: "I just got my Earthwise (a UCS newsletter) and came right up to play the Great Green Web Game," the teacher said. "It is excellent. I'm going to recommend it to my students, and the student teachers may use it in classrooms in public schools. Excellent move."

Game developers Smith and Currier both aim for careers in the computer field. Smith plans to be an information systems project manager and Currier looks forward to work as a software programmer/engineer. While it's gratifying to see months of work come to fruition, Smith said getting there was more than half the fun.

"I think the coolest part was watching the game evolve," he said. "We coordinated it with professional graphic designers. Watching them take the drawings we faxed and digitize them was awesome."

To play the Great Green Web Game and read about the book, go to http://www.ucsusa.org.