Team Number: 1
School Name: Capshaw Middle School
Area of Science: Social Science
Project Title: Fashion Trends in a Middle School


Problem Definition:

Middle school students arrive at school wanting both to conform to fashion norms and to be recognized as individuals, and having a relative degree of shyness or sociability.  Students in a middle school have been following the trends of society based on fashion runways and music of the times that media exploits, limited by parental consent.  They bring to school attitudes and fundamental beliefs about what is “in” and what is “not.”  StarLogo is attractive to middle school students’ skill level, and students can use this program to study trends. 


In this project, we will research how many students in an average population tend to be resistant to trends and whether data already exists on “tipping points” to the spread of trends.  This experiment allows students to manipulate the percentage of a the middle school population that is relatively resistant to a trend, and see how that affects the total spread of the trend and the speed of the spread.  This imitates the real-world school environment in changing the number of contacts made by individual students (relative shyness), by recognizing that one individual can start and spread a trend, but also recognizing that the percentage of resistant students is the factor which will determine the spread and speed of the trend.      


Problem Solution:

We will use StarLogo to create our primary model that will simulate a typical middle school environment, and run several trials to observe the spread of a fashion trend.  Using this agent-based model will help us to study the spread of a trend and how the percent of resistant students dampens that spread.  Creating a parallel model using Mathematica, to compare our results in a graphics model, allows us to learn how a trend develops over a period of time among middle school students.  A possible extension of this project will allow students to study the effect of the end of the trend (the trend-setter attempts to begin a new trend after starting the first one).


Progress to Date:

Research showed that a fashion trend spreads because the social impact that the students experience affect their decisions about what to wear and what not to wear.   

The research supported a fashion trend spreads in the same pattern of an epidemic.  Shyness of the population in a middle school is about 30% and also plays a role on the speed of the spread of a trend.  We will research whether a tipping point exists, if there is a correlation between shyness and susceptibility and what percentage of a typical middle school population is resistant to the spread of a trend. 


A simple version of the model has been created in StarLogo and a graph of the StarLogo model has been developed in Mathematica.  The StarLogo model as it currently exists will allow students to perform multiple trials of the spread of the trend at different levels of relative resistance (from 90% “followers” and 10% “freethinkers” to the opposite percentages).  The model will be developed and refined to change variables to reflect the results of our research (if we are able to determine a typical percentage of students who are resistant to trends, for example); to use scaled color to show the current level of susceptibility to a trend of each student (agent); to incorporate the research that demonstrates approximately 30% of middle school students are shy; and to collect data at defined time intervals (and so allow that data to be studied and manipulated in Mathematica).  We will also attempt to create a version of this program in StarLogo TNG, to introduce the model to students in a more appealing version and increase initial interest in the modeling process.


A Cartesian model has been developed in Mathematica using one pink shirt agent and one other color of shirt agent to represent the fashion trend in the middle school.  The model shows growth of a trend over time by using differing time sets.  We will be developing a model based on a school population of 100 to parallel the StarLogo model.


Expected Results:

We expect multiple trials of the program at differing rates of resistance to show that the greater percentage of the population of students that is resistant to the trend, the smaller and slower the spread of the trend.  There might be a “tipping point” somewhere in the result, where above that level the trend spreads quickly and completely, but we do not know whether the model will mimic this result.  We also expect that the shy students will be more resistant to the trend, regardless of their existing resistance level.  When graphing the results, it will be similar to the spread of an epidemic. 


In using this simulation, students can expand the model to study other topics such as bullying and effects of media on decision making.  The use of StarLogo will be implemented into the science and social studies curricula for the purpose of answering questions that arise in other contexts. 


Team Members:

Susan Gibbs, Thansewi Martinez, Theresa Anaya Burney, & Peter Colehour

Sponsoring Teacher: Makoena Monese