As TechSPARK continues its quest to delve deeper into the six shortlisted teams from the Bristol Green Capital Digital Challenge’s 48-hour hackathon, the winners of which win £50,000 to take their idea to market, we spoke to the creators of Crocodile – the app that helps to make booking and tracking children’s school ‘walking buses’ and ‘cycling trains’ a doddle.
Walking buses and cycling trains form a more environmentally friendly and active way for students to get to school safely, by foot or by bike, escorted by adult volunteers. Much like a regular bus or train, there are pick-up times as well as designated stops along the route.
Crocodile App: Check out this video to find out more about the app’s features.
With the Crocodile app, parents can view the walking bus routes nearest to them, book their child into their preferred route and even check, via the app, to see they’ve arrived safely.
“40% of UK primary school children are dropped off at school by car every day”
Created by a range of digital professionals and a sustainability solutions expert, the team consists of Kevin Ramm, Chris Thurling, Jon Waring, Carl Sargunar and David Smith who all got involved in the Green Capital Digital Challenge because of their strong belief in the environmental cause of transport.
Reflecting on some of the research the team had carried out, Kevin tells us: “We were shocked to discover that every school day in the UK 40% of primary school children are dropped off at school by car.”
“A high proportion of rush-hour traffic in urban settings is due to school-runs by car which causes continued poor air quality in UK cities, linked to asthma and other health problems”
“We also learned that a high proportion of rush-hour traffic in urban settings is due to school-runs by car. High traffic volumes cause continued poor air quality in UK cities, linked to asthma and other health problems. Walking buses and cycle trains offer a great alternative to commuting to school by car.”
Digital engagement, social benefits
As well as providing an easy tool for parents to engage in more environmentally friendly ways to get their children to school, the app aims to create useful analytics for schools. The team hopes this will help them understand trends in walking bus activities and enable gamification through reward schemes for pupils, classes or year groups.
“Research has shown that children who walk, scoot or cycle to school arrive more alert and ready to learn”
Not only that but Kevin tells us about some positive statistics which the team hope will reflect on the walking bus scheme and the Crocodile app.
Kevin explains: “By catalysing more active travel for children, Crocodile should also bring health and fitness benefits, and increase social interaction between children.”
“There is also an expected educational benefit – research has shown that children who walk, scoot or cycle to school arrive more alert and ready to learn.”
With the final of the Bristol Green Capital Digital Challenge final less than 6 weeks away now, Kevin and the team reflect on some of the challenges they’ve been facing, including running the project on top of their busy day jobs!
“Our initial challenge has been to connect with sufficient schools and parents to ensure we understand our user community – these people are busy!”
“Another challenge is in knowing which of the many potential activities we should focus on. We must balance the requirement to develop some form of solution prototype versus the importance of sound analysis on desirability and viability.”
“With more than 1 million UK primary school children regularly commuting by car, a small percentage reduction can make a big difference”
However, team Crocodile has ambitions for the future and hope that the app will make a big difference in the long run. Kevin tells us:
“If we can make even a small contribution in reducing the proportion of children travelling to schools in cars, so that they regularly walk or cycle to school instead, then we will be very happy!’
“With more than 1 million UK primary school children regularly commuting by car, a small percentage reduction can make a big difference. While we might target the UK initially, car school runs is an issue in many developed countries, so ultimately we would like to see Crocodile go global.”
Thanks very much to Kevin for speaking to us about the project. You can stay up to date with the team’s progress by following them on Twitter at @crocodileapp. The final for the challenge will be held at the Bristol 2015 International Youth Summit at the Colston Hall on April 20.