How it works

Boltage is part sociology and part technology. The sociology is really the important part - our real goal is to make walking and biking a way of life. That means we need to win over the hearts and minds of kids. So we put a lot of effort into trying to make Boltage cool and developing incentive programs that connect with kids. The technology makes the job easier by giving us the information we need to implement incentives that reward repetition, which we think is the key to changing habits.

Incentives

We think that in order for rewards to work best with kids, they need to be frequent and they need to come as quickly as possible. These rewards do not have to be expensive "things" - their real value lies in the accomplishments they represent. In fact, research shows that simple public recognition of accomplishments can be one of the most more effective motivators. And recognizing accomplishments builds self esteem and shows kids that their personal actions can make a difference.

We have created a number of incentive items based on this philosophy, like rubber wrist bands, stickers, hand stamps and temporary tattoos. This provides program operators with easy, low cost access to a variety of items that can be used as part of any number of incentive programs. Click here to learn more about how to order these items.

In addition, Boltage provides reports and data downloads to support incentive programs. One such report supports an incentive scheme where kids can earn different colored rubber wristbands for reaching specific Zap Levels (number of trips). This program is designed so that all the kids can earn rewards, regardless of how long it takes them to reach certain milestones. Kids who participate more are rewarded with different colored wristbands that represent higher levels of achievement. As kids collect wristbands, not only are they recognized for their accomplishments, but they develop a sense of belonging to a group leading the way toward a more sustainable future.

Another type of effective incentive program promotes group efforts, where the whole school strives to reach a common goal, or competes with another school to reach a big milestone. We have developed posters and reporting that let schools track their cumulative progress toward a goal, which can be miles, CO2 saved, number of trips, etc. Simply measuring and posting these results in the school hallway can provide strong motivation for the kids. These posters can be downloaded here and customized to reflect the specific needs of individual schools.

Winning the hearts and minds of kids can be tricky business - big companies spend millions trying to figure it out. We study their techniques and are constantly learning based on the experience of Boltage schools - and pass on best practices throughout our network. Our goal is to create a "brand" around Boltage on par with the characters created by the powerhouse media companies, and utilize it to drive the effectiveness of our incentive programs.

Technology

The purpose of the wiz bang technology is to support the incentive programs by providing kid-specific information day in and day out. This is a key difference between Boltage and other walk/bike incentive programs that focus on only a few days a year. International Walk to School Day is great - but everyone seems to walk just one day, and the next day they are right back in their cars. You simply can’t change habits without persistence.

Boltage solves this problem using a machine called the Zap, which is a solar powered, internet connected RFID reader (now that is a mouthful). RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification, which is an emerging technology used extensively in industry. Kids get a RFID tag that attaches to their backpack, and the Zap reads their unique number when they go past it at the school. The Zap makes a cool beep (the little kids love that part). Then the Zap connects to the internet, and uploads its daily counts. Each kid has an account on our web site where they can see all their trips, and the school can run reports to support their incentive programs.

Because the Zap is solar powered, no wiring is required in installation. It connects to the internet using state of the art internet security. The Zap is typically placed in an area where kids can easily walk past it, but where it will not accidentally count kids who don’t walk or bike.

Of course, there are a few details - see the FAQ section or shoot us an email.

Local Organization

The Boltage program requires a strong local organization to engage with the kids and their families. A parent volunteer, often as part of a PTA/PTO, usually leads the organization. The program works best with the support of the school principal and a few teachers. We have also seen successful programs started by local health organizations, bike shops, and advocacy groups. The key is a group of people who can come together with enough time and energy to successfully engage the kids and support local logistics, like distributing tags and awards.

Costs

System Hardware $4,890 (plus $200 shipping)
Annual Maintenance $950 (starting in second year)
Additional RFID tags (100) $115 (system ships with 500 tags)

Funding

Schools have funded the program from a number of sources: PTA/PTO, local advocacy groups, individual donors, and grants from a variety of organizations, particularly Safe Routes to School (SRTS). For more information about SRTS, check these links:

National Center for Safe Routes to School
Safe Routes to School National Partnership

 

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