Projects at BIG:

The BIG school believes that student work should be public for the following reasons:

  1. We want community members to be able to raise their hands to say, "Yes! I can help this student get that done!"
  2. When students have a true audience for their work (outside the school walls) they persist longer, and create more learning
  3. Since we don't bully with points and grades, our students aren't afraid to share their progress as they learn how to fail gracefully into success

  4. 5 Seasons Courts

    We need more courts (athletic, not legal)! The demand for club and adult sports that need courts has grown well beyond the current availability of court facilities in the corridor. What is the solution? What if the corridor had one central facility that could solve this community demand? What would it look like? Where would it be? How could it be done? Costs? Promotion? And endless list of things to consider and learn.

    Activities for Teens

    Do you want more things for teens to do in the community? The Cedar Rapids Recreation Department needs teens to help them create events and/or programs to increase the number of activities that are available. These could be newly created activities, changes in current programming, and partnership activities.

    Aquaponics Prototyping

    Students will work in conjunction with The Ecoponics Group in North Africa to help design and test a prototype aquaponics system. Data will be collected on the efficiency and production of the system in the different climates experience in Iowa and Saharan Africa. Student will have contact with team in North Africa.

    Beliefs About Science and Religion

    Student is attempting to take a picture of the current state of religion and its interaction with science in the Eastern Iowa area. The student is interviewing people all faiths, walks of life, and attitudes in order to produce a film showing the results of this interviewing. Student is concentrating on the central tenets of each religion and their histories.

    Bever Park Zoo

    The City of Cedar Rapids Parks and Recreation Department needs help with Bever Park Zoo! They are looking to improve marketing and branding, expand program offerings, and resdesign the facility and spaces. This might also include evaluating the administration of the zoo and care of animals.

    Build Me a Starship Please

    A blog that traverses the space between science reality and science fiction. A heavy emphasis on economics and speculative research. End goal is for student to write about all systems of the Enterprise and how they could be made with today's technology.

    Carcinogen or Not? A Popular Science Blog

    Student Tianyi Han is exploring the ever-confusing world of claims of cancer-causing products. From plastics to microwaves, she explains the science in an accessible way to help create a better informed public!

    Cedar Rapids History and Artifacts

    Jelinek Companies has and extensive collection of historic artifcates that tell the story of Cedar Rapids and its various neighborhoods. They need a complete inventory, grouping, and research in regards to historical elements in Parlor City, other properties, and acquisitions housed in storage spaces. There are stories that go with some of the artifacts and some stories yet to be discovered!

    Cedar River Watershed Management

    The area upriver from Seminole Valley Park needs to be investigated to plan for watershed management. There are options for analysis, planning, and implementation. This would be a joint project with Cedar Rapids Parks and Linn County Conservation.

    Compostable Lip Balm Container

    EcoLips is the first lip balm company looking to create a fully compostable lip balm container! This project requires research and experimentation with current containers and prototypes and the creation of a display or exhibit of the process and materials that can be used to share at trade shows.

    Educating Citizens about City Services

    The City of Cedar Rapids needs to educate its citizens on the how tos of city services! Create methods to educate the young and elderly (and everyone in between) about recycling, road improvements, Yardie use, storm water runoff, rain barrels and rain gardens, and a variety of other city services and initiatives.

    Elementary School Culture and Effectiveness

    College Community School District has a unique campus that allows for the equal distribution of students in its elementary schools. This also gives researchers (you) the unique control and ability to scientifically study why different schools have differing successes and failures. This project will help make schools more awesome.

    Energy Use in City Buildings

    The new City Services Center is a LEED Gold certified building. But there are many other city buildings that don't meet that type of certification and are using tremendous amounts of energy! How can the city manage the energy use of their buildings, work towards certification of other buildings, find money to make improvements or gather recommendations, and what type of process should they follow to make changes?

    Environment Action Installations

    Student Ali Stokebary will be installing several large sculptures in the Cedar Rapids area designed to provoke pro-environment behaviors. She is also designing a website that will collect data from users as prompted by the sculptures, including geo-data about owl locations, litter density, and guerrilla prairie restoration.

    Fish on Wheels Students will create the robotics necessary to do the animal behavior and art research associated with animals given autonomy outside of their usual environments.

    Full STEAM Ahead: Upgrading Johnson Elem

    Johnson Elementary school in CR is undergoing a redesign this year. In August 2015 they will open as a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) Magnet School. The District wants the school's look to reflect its new identity. This project involves discovering what the faculty, parents and students want; evaluating the building to determine what's possible, creating designs for the building, and preparing it for bids. The team will work closely with the architectural firm, Shive-Hattery, on this project. **Initial meetings with the District's Director of Buildings and Grounds, Rob Kleinsmith, and CFO Steve Graham must be made at the commencement of the project. David Dobson, Shive-Hattery is lead for this project.

    Gamify How Teacher Training

    CRCSD technology professional development team wants to help improve teachers' understanding of, expertise in, and use of common and emerging technology tools. They would like to gamify the process to both encourage staff to improve and track where people are in the continuum and who might need assistance.

    Gazette Education Reporting

    Students will take over the education community building blog, Iowa TransformED for the Gazette Companies. This blog reports on the awesome things happening in education in the area and throws events to bring teachers and students together.

    GIS Mapping for Prairie and Mowing

    Cedar Rapids Parks is working to develop an accurate GIS layer for areas mowed and for areas of prairie within the parks system. These layers will be useful to visually represent strategic conversion options of regularly mowed acreage to either native prairie, or simply a low mow management. The benefits of mowing reductions that are carefully designed to complement recreational and environmental health needs of a park are both budgetary and resource impactful.

    Heart Fair

    Students will create a heart health fair for their peer group. The purpose of this fair will be to provide information on cardiovascular disease and the impact that lifestyle choices have on long term health outcomes as well to start young people out on the right foot for a lifetime of healthy living.

    How do you run a city?

    Cities have infrastructure and services that go unnoticed, like snow removal. There is a need to communicate with residents, benchmark these "unnoticed" services, organize comparison studies of these items and then share the findings and educate consumers.


    Student is currently gaining knowledge of the cutting edge in the field of Immuno-Oncology so that she may be equipped to shed light on a currently misunderstood portion of the immuno-oncological picture.

    Invasive Species Management and Education

    One BIG challenge that conservation professionals face is managing invasive plant species in our parks, preserves and natural areas. We would love a BIG solution for reaching the general public. How can we communicate the importance of managing invasives in a new and memorable way to people that may know nothing about Iowa plants? What are the ways people need to hear about this so that they feel like the information is valid, interesting and worthy of action? Should we use humor? Can we find an effective way to use social media? Do people need to visit sites to make a personal connection (i.e. guided hikes?) or could they be inspired by simply reading a dynamic blog, watching a funny video, reading engaging signage? What motivates people to take ownership, take action, teach others? With so little of Iowa’s native ecosystems left (i.e. Iowa has less than 1/10th of one percent of tallgrass prairie) it is a tragedy that the few places that remain be degraded by invasives.

    Iowa Scenic Bikeways

    The Iowa Bicycle Coalition is seeking assistance in developing our scenic bikeways program. Our long-term objective is designate roads and other places in Iowa that are enjoyable for people to ride bicycles. In the short-term, we seek assistance with: 1. Collecting information on existing signed or posted routes. 2. Assembling the information on digital maps. 3. Developing micro website that presents the routes. 4. Establish a crowdsourced commenting system for route updates/closures/etc. 5. Create a submission system for new routes. 6. Integrate a social media component.

    Lace 'Em Up! Re-open Ellis Ice

    Winter in CR needs help! There was a time anyone in CR could skate for free to release the winter blues. A number of community members would like to work with the city to reopen the Ellis Ice Rink. Lace 'Em Up!

    Lip Balm Manufacturing

    EcoLips manufactures their lip balm right in the New Bo neighborhood! There are engineering concerns that need to be solved to improve their efficiency. The machines used in the process don't always fill all of the containers to the same capacity, causing a quality control issue, and there are other instances of machines needing additional analysis and engineering.

    Marketing for EcoLips

    EcoLips has many marketing activities and is looking for new ideas and exciting changes. You will work closely with their marketing director to share their story and market their products.

    Marketing Recreation Opportunities

    Did you know you can learn to work with clay, go for hayrack rides, and learn to ice skate all in Cedar Rapids? There are many residents who have little to no idea about all of the opportunties the Cedar Rapids Recreation Department offers! Marketing the events and activities offered by the department, new ideas generated by the public, and special events are just part of the project. This project will also include reaching seniors, those just retired, working with social programs, and making connections.

    Matsell Bridge Natural Area Planning

    This would involve evaluating existing recreational opportunities at the park and working with staff to identify new possibilities for recreation and conservation. The work could extend into programming and education opportunities within the space.

    Mental Health and Empathy in Fiction

    The goal of this project is to create empathy for those suffering from common mental illnesses by engaging young people before their misconceptions can form into hardened prejudices. The infographic being produced shows popular fictional characters, their diagnosis, and a measurement of how different their narrative would have been if they had received treatment. An accompanying blog needs to be produced to support each data set.

    Menus, Catering, and Inventory Controls

    Jelinek Companies needs help with marketing and research in regards to catering, delivery, menus, branding, handouts, and signage for one of their properties! Investigation and analysis of inventory control, food costs, menu pricing, and protocols are also areas of concern and need for the restaurant.

    Metro Area Trails Marketing/Cataloging

    The trails (biking and walking) in the Linn County area need to be cataloged and organized so visitors and residents can easily locate biking and walking routes! Some ideas include a video tour, website, and QR codes, but all different ideas will be considered. The long term goal is to share these materials with the local convention and visitors bureau.

    Mountain Bike Trail Counters

    Linn Area Mountain Bike Association needs to be able to measure the use numbers on current singletrack trails and the forecasted use on proposed trails. LAMBA needs a way to track use on all trail systems and report the use to the public, parks departments, conservation boards, and other trail groups. Currently, LAMBA has trail counters, developed by Linn County Trails Association and these are the same model as used on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail, which need to be manually recorded. There may be a better design to be engineered and the need for this will expand beyond Linn County to other mountain bike trail systems in the state and region.


    The project lead is Anna Seydel. Her group's goal is to produce a myoelectric prosthetic hand that uses forearm impulses to drive a robotic prosthetic.

    Natamani (I Wish) Album

    Student Toyi Gidioni is creating an original album of African inspired gospel music in several styles, including pop, reggae, & gospel. He is playing, recording, mastering, and composing on all tracks.

    Nature Programming for Parks

    Cedar Rapids has more park space than Des Moines, however, the department wants to offer more outdoor and nature based programming. What might work well, given the parks in the city? What do communities want their parks department to offer? Help increase the use of the outdoor spaces in Cedar Rapids.

    Neighborhood Planning

    This work might encompass multiple neighborhoods in Cedar Rapids and could include land use, zoning, area plans, areas of transition, history, neighborhood vision, and specific boundaries. Some neighborhoods have specific plans and others do not.


    Poplar trees in contained cells are used to remediate Nitrogen wastes from waste water. Experiment is looking to test the remediation capability during winter. Student is measuring available Nitrogen, Phosphorus, pesticides, etc. Plans to enter into the Google Science Fair!

    Popup Art

    This project would result in a traveling art museum that would "pop-up" in communities that aren't typically exposed to fine art.

    Quantum Computer Game

    We are creating a game that showcases the differences between traditional and quantum computation. The game's central mechanic puts the player in a room full of dangerous machines that must be hacked in order to reach the exit. When the player approaches a machine they can choose how they want to hack the machine (move it, turn it, stop it, etc...) Then the player begins to use the upgradeable as-yet-undetermined hacking tool to wrestle with the internal defenses of the objects. The player must respond before the defenses do, and the speed of these responses depends on how upgraded the player's tool is. The player may choose to purchase bits, qubits, algorithms, etc... for his computers. The player may even develop some algorithms.

    Recreation Partnerships

    There are many different opportunities in Cedar Rapids for recreation partnerships. We have an ice arena, other sporting venues, museums, and cultural opportunities. The Cedar Rapids Recreation Department would like to work on partnership development with schools, churches, other nonprofits, and other local organizations to offer even more recreation opportunities in Cedar Rapids.

    Reorganization of Metro Transit

    The Corridor Metro Planning Organization (MPO) sees a need to reorganize the metro transit system. This might include collecting data, gathering student and teen input, data analysis, and evaluating ways to improve and increase the bus service in the Metro area.

    Restoration of Linn County Parks

    Research the historic aspects of parks and natural areas using soil maps, historic aerial photos and on the ground observation. This research would assist in developing and making recommendations on how and where it would be possible to return areas to their pre settlement habitat. For example restoration of savanna, wetland, woodland, and prairie. The development of a multi-year plan to accomplish the restoration could be part of the work.


    What are roundabouts? How do you use them? Why are they important for transportation? Are they safe? These are just a few of the questions drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists have and they need to be answered! The City of Cedar Rapids wants to educate their residents about roundabouts, but needs help doing so.

    Sculptures in Cedar Rapids

    There are a variety of sculptures in Cedar Rapids in public spaces. However, it is very difficult to locate them, and there is a need to have a walking tour of these pieces of public art. The city Visual Arts Commission has discussed a variety of ways to accomplish this, but the project has yet to be completed.

    SeaPerch: Underwater Robotics

    Two middle school students are building a water-proofed robot, The USS Whalephant, designed to take data about salinity, density, temperature and depth. Current plans include the construction of a grasping arm, and automated object recognition. Based on the SeaPerch ROV design.

    Show me the money!

    Writing successful grants can mean lots of money and resources for schools and non-profits. It is a special writing skill that is highly sought after in the work world. This project would provide students with periodic opportunities to become lead grant writers for important grants the two Districts are interested in pursuing.

    Skate Park/Bike Park Complex

    The new green space plans include both a skate park and bike park option! The City of Cedar Rapids needs you to design both spaces, assist with fundraising, and organize input sessions and complete risk assessment. (The space is bordered by busy roads and the river).

    Solving Chemistry Problems in Lip Balm

    Some ingredients in organic lip balm are not acting as required by product control. There are chemistry issues surrounding how minerals like caffeine are dispersed in the lip balm solution, the solubility of different materials, and changes that need to be made for effective use of the emulsion process.


    Student Kinzie Farmer is putting together a TED-style day of speakers, discussion, and learning centered around empowering women to understand the difference between genetic and sexist pressure affecting their ability to succeed in the professional world. Featuring Lisa Bluder, head coach of the Iowa Women's basketball team. See:

    Superconductivity PSA

    Student is helping the public address misconceptions about magnetism by showing them the most exotic form: the Meissner Effect in superconductors.

    Sustainability Plan: IGreenCR

    The City of Cedar Rapids has implemented a sustainability plan called IGreenCR ( Both city employees and citizens are in need of education of the components of the plan, the steps they can take to help implement the plan, and there is a need for data collection within city departments. The plan encompasses a wide variety of areas and has multiple goals.

    The Best Tasting Water in Iowa

    Every year the City of Cedar Rapids issues a water quality report. Get your feet wet by designing this report which is distributed to all citizens. Students will need to meet all local, state, and federal guidelines while designing a high quality report using current data and information.

    The FDA and drug company relationships

    The purpose of this project is to analyze the relationship between the FDA and the drug companies that it is charged with monitoring as well as the impact on healthcare providers and the healthcare system through the approval of drugs that dont offer any real benefit.

    Trail Design and Engineering

    The Corridor Metro Planning Organization (MPO) receives funding applications for trails with basic design ideas. This work would including taking the basic design ideas and working through the engineering and design process to create detailed plans for trails and streetscapes.

    Urban Orchards

    Student team is designing, siting, planting, and creating a maintenance scheme for an urban orchard in Cedar Rapids.

    Urban Runoff

    How should urban storm water runoff be managed? Evaluate and analyze current drain situations in Cedar Rapids, inflow and infiltration, look at potential solutions like rain barrels/rain gardens, sustainability of current and future solutions, streetscape design, and help solve this problem! This can help the City to function more sustainably, prevent basement water back-ups and impact the aesthetics of the community.

    What a Waste!

    The Cedar Rapids School District needs to re-examine and re-negotiate its waste removal process and service. This project would focus on understanding the changing waste needs of the District's schools and a recommendation for how to make waste removal more efficient as well as environmentally friendly.

    Help out with a BIG Project!

    Thank you for being interested in volunteering! Every project at BIG is combined effort of professional educators, enthusiastic students, and invested community players.

    Past volunteers have helped in the following ways:

    • Donations of equipment and money (we're a non-profit)
    • Time committment to mentor, review, or advise project development
    • Pitch new ideas or larger projects students could join
    • Encouragement!
    Your Email:

    How would you like to help?