Vitamin Bee

Vitamin Bee

By Margaret Sands, Kunyi Li, Yihang Sui, and Rikhav Shah

The data say that bee colonies are dying in large numbers across the United States due to various health stressors such as mites and pesticides. We want to tell this story because bees influence many parts of our daily lives without our knowledge. Many fruits and other crops rely on bees and other pollinators to create a larger and better quality harvest. However, most consumers of fruit do not consider the relationship. We want to inform grocery shoppers at supermarkets about the conditions of bee colonies in states that produce their favorite fruits and how widespread the problem is across the entire country, and urge them to take action to protect bees. Our audience is shoppers at supermarkets, possibly organic supermarkets like Whole Foods where customers would be more inclined to care about the environment. Our visualization is in the form of an interactive activity that would be displayed on a touch screen monitor or tablet along with a facilitator to guide the user through the experience. We incentivize grocery shoppers to participate in this activity by offering them a coupon on organic produce if they complete the activity.

The activity starts by prompting the user to pick their favorites in a list of fruits. The list of fruit is purposefully selected in that they are all fruits that rely on bee pollination. Then the user is presented with facts regarding the fruit that are also related to bees so they become aware that their favorite fruit is heavily tied to bees. For our example, the user has selected strawberries.

Next, the user is asked to guess which state they think produces the largest amount of their favorite fruit by dragging the fruit icon over a state. Once they’ve selected a state, we will reveal the 3 states that are the top producers of that fruit so the user can see if they guessed correctly.

As we want to inform the user about bees in these states, we then present a side by side comparison of bee conditions in those three states. Stats included are bee population, annual percentage of bee colonies lost, and percentage of colonies affected by various health stressors.

At this point, the user has only seen the problem of disappearing bees in three specific states, but we also want them to know that this problem is nationwide. To do this, we show them a map of bee colony loss in all the states across the country where they can select different states to see the percentage of annual bee colony loss in the selected state.

After they’ve seen the problem in the context of states and the entire US, we invite the user to create change. These invitations range from actions they can take in their own yard, like changing their pesticide of choice to a bee-friendly brand, to actions they can take in their own community, like helping plant a community garden, to actions they can take that can help bees across the country, like donating to research funds, calling their legislature, signing petitions, or even volunteering time to log information about local colonies for studies.

We think this will be an effective way to encourage shoppers to play a more active role in helping the bees. By having them pick their favorite fruit, the shopper is predisposed to care more about that fruit than a preselected one. Looking at individual states and how they compare emphasizes the problem of bee loss across the different states. Allowing the user to explore different the values across the United States outside of the spoon-fed data gives the experience a more personal feeling. If we had more time to iterate, we would focus on adding more data to the US map. Currently, the map focuses on only colony loss data. However, it could be augmented to add lower-level colony data or data relating to more fruits than what the user has currently selected.



USDA data on fruit production
Bee pollination improves crop quality, shelf life and commercial value


Mitchell Myers, Caroline Liu, Arturo Chavez, Alicia Ouyang

Boston’s natural gas pipes are prone to corrosion and leaks due to their age, so we want to raise awareness in our local community. We looked at the natural gas dataset, and decided to focus on “lost” leaks and “found leaks. “Found” leaks are natural gas leaks that have been are recorded by the natural gas utilities through the years as unrepaired. In contrast, “lost leaks” are leaks that were recorded as “unrepaired”, but disappeared in following years from the records without being recorded as “repaired”. We want to tell the story of “lost leaks” because natural gas leaks are often colorless, yet have major consequences by contributing to greenhouse gases, creating fire hazards, and increases financial costs on residents. Our goal in creating our combined game of minesweeper and Boston/Cambridge maps is to teach local residents about the “lost leaks” problem, and lobby for stricter accountability measures on utility companies.

Our audience would encounter Leaksweeper through social media sharing, by the advocacy group or petition signers. We choose to use small maps around specific districts and neighborhoods since people know the areas around where they live or where they work. We encourage interaction through the minesweeper interface overlay, where the mines represent the natural gas leaks. Since we have different types of leaks, flags already mark the “found” leaks when the game begins. The goal of the player is to flag all the “lost” leaks while avoiding clicking on them. A consequence of natural gas leaks are explosions, and we wanted the audience to explore the map, so we believed representing the leaks by exploding mines in a game of minesweeper is an effective way to bring our message across. At the end of the game, we urge the player to take action by visiting petition website, , and share the game.

Build it Better

We chose to do a sketch using the dataset that deals with Fuel Economy, supplemented by 2018 starting price from Kelly Blue Book (,  and propose a sketch with the following characteristics:

Goal: to encourage people to buy more fuel efficient cars.

Audience: current car buyers who  are not experts about different features and parts in cars (and have some 1990s video game nostalgia). We envision this being an ad or feature on a car-buying website, but not one that targets gear heads (i.e., Kelly Blue Book or Carfax, not Car & Driver).

Story: In addition to the type of car you select, the choices that you make about the internal  features of your car also are essential to the fuel efficiency.

To define the story, we had to choose how to best market full efficiency to our audience. We identified three options of main arguments to convince our audience: 1) “buy it because it’s eco-friendly”; 2) “buy it because being fuel efficient, it’s also friendly to your budget”; 3) “buy it because being fuel efficient, it’s also convenient to your schedule by saving you frequent trips to the gas station.” We decided to explicitly focus on the second and the third arguments in our sketch to make the abstract concept of “efficiency” directly applicable and more personal to individual buyers. At the same time, we use ‘green’ as a double entendre to also hint at making choices that have better environmental impact.

In our sketch, we decided to present  our narrative using the visual language of character selection screens from various video games to playfully present our argument and rules for a exploratory participatory data game. We use side-scrolling 8-bit text to explain the surprising finding that choices like drivetrain and transmission type can have an effect on average combined MPG. This introduction is presented in this sketch as slides, but would be ultimately animated.

After walking through this story and instructions on how to play the game, we invite users to select the car type and features they have been considering to see how that configuration stacks up against similar ones in terms of median combined MPG (which we’ve mocked-up here: Once users submit their choice, a pop-up would inform them  how their configuration compares to other similar configurations. If it’s not the most fuel efficient configuration within its car type, the game challenges users to try again to find the best configuration (taking some witty inspiration from the BBC Youtube Chemistry game, The Biggest Bang:) .

We also provide price and fuel efficiency information for the two to three most fuel efficient models in the 2018 range of cars with that configuration (to push even stubborn buyers to consider more fuel efficient options).

The features and criteria that we were able to include in the app were constrained by what was available in the dataset (Model, Vehicle Class, Fuel Efficiency, 2WD or 4WD, Fuel Type and Transmission). In future iterations of this sketch, we would try to find and incorporate more features that are relevant to average car buyers (such as number of seats, storage space, sunroof, horsepower, etc.) to make the tool more realistic and helpful in the car buying experience.

Kyoto Community Flower Diary

Helen Bailey, Maddie Pelz & Yihang Sui


This rich historical dataset dating back to the early 800s suggests that the full flowering date of the cherry trees in Kyoto have become increasingly early across time. We want to tell this story because cherry blossoms are an important part of Japanese culture, and are an example of the many species of plants being threatened by climate change.

As members of the travel bureau, our audience is people traveling to Kyoto hoping to plan a trip to visit different landmarks. Our goals with this interactive data story are to engage visitors with the cultural importance of cherry blossoms and the history of Kyoto, in order to encourage them to continue to build upon this historical dataset. Participants select the day of their visit to Kyoto, and then select an interest from the list we provide. The list includes architecture, religion, theater, art, and etc. After selecting their personal interest, they will be guided to the place of interest or things to do in Kyoto.

Assume they are interested in architecture. They then are shown a historical photo from the year in which that day was the full flowering day in Kyoto, and given information about that landmark. We then ask them to them contribute a modern photo of the landmark in order to help collect data on modern flowering times, as well as a way to collect and share their own travel memories. Using this app, we hope to connect their current travel experiences to the past in order to encourage them to reflect on the impact that climate change is having on these beautiful trees.

For example, Yuyiko from Tokyo traveled to Kyoto this year. She was interested in Religion and visited Daigo-ji on April 5th. She took pretty photos with cherry blossom and helped us keep the data of flowering date. From her photos, we collect April 5th’s data.

For this data story we used a dataset consisting of (almost) yearly records of the peak flowering dates of the cherry blossoms since ~800AD. Despite this dataset’s simple appearance, the data points have been collected from a range of historical sources, ranging from personal diaries to government documents describing emperors plans for the official cherry blossom festival. We used this along with scientific reports of how climate change is playing a role in these earlier flowering times to provide additional information about these blooming trends.

Sketch 3: Rent the Raceway

Project Title: Rent the Raceway

Team Member Names: Haley Meisenholder, Olivia Brode-Roger, Alicia Ouyang, Mitchel Myers

Description: The data says that there are vehicles which are much more fuel efficient than others. These more efficient vehicles produce less harmful emissions and result in monetary savings for users. We want to tell this story because it is relevant to the environment, quality of life, and spending capacity of vehicle renters. Our audience is car renters. Specifically, we hope to place our participatory data game at car rental kiosks (such as at the airport). We hope that through the game, car renters will become more cognizant of the trade-offs between their different vehicle rental options. Ultimately, we hope to use subtle/specific features in the game play to nudge renters into renting/utilizing more fuel efficient vehicles.

In this project, we utilized data from the “US Fuel Economy Measurements” data set, Hertz rental car data, and US map data. We believe that our game is effective for increasing renter awareness and encouraging renters to drive more fuel efficient vehicles.

In our participatory data game “Rent the Raceway”, car renters approach a car rental kiosk and find a screen (iPad, TV, etc.) with the game ready to play. The game is a car racing game with some added fuel efficiency game play components. Car renters are able to select a vehicle among the rental options to race with. In the vehicle selection screen, car renters are able to see the stats of the various vehicles (speed, mpg, etc.) and also the various “power-ups” that their vehicle will be eligible for in game. Once the renter selects a vehicle, the race begins and the renter will race their selected vehicle against other potential rental vehicles that the renter did not select. Some key game play features are: 1) the renter’s vehicle has a dynamic “fuel” gauge that is drained overtime depending on the MPG of the vehicle; if the renter runs out of fuel, the vehicle stalls out for several seconds; to prevent running out of fuel, the renter must drive over “fuel-up” icons on the racetrack, 2) each vehicle has “power-ups” that they are eligible for (e.g. a “cool” convertible can pick up  speed boosts and handling boosts, but not all cars can pick-up every power-up), 3) there is a running tally of money saved in the UI that shows the driver the money saved/lost due to fuel efficiency differences, 4) following race conclusion, the comparative race stats between the various vehicles are displayed and the renter has the ability to select/rent a vehicle.

We believe these mechanics are effective for communicating our message because 1) the user is constantly reminded throughout the game (due to power-ups and fuel gauge) the impact of their car decision on their journey/money/fuel efficiency, 2) the game play itself places fuel efficiency at the forefront by creating a more forgiving/easier game experience for fuel efficient vehicles, 3) placing monetary savings as a core piece of information for fuel efficient vehicles, 4) allowing the user to get detailed/relative statistics regarding trip performance at the conclusion of the race, and 5) providing a bridge to a car rental decision at the conclusion of the game.