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A group of UT students will build a giant cardboard box fort on Friday, February 21, in an effort to educate their peers about how the national debt is affecting them.

The transformation of at least 5,000 cardboard boxes into the Power T begins at 8:00 a.m. near the Pedestrian Mall. The fort will be six feet tall and about 100 feet long.

The Economics Club is using the large number of boxes to represent the staggering amount of the national debt, which currently is about $17 trillion.

“The club is raising awareness on the increasing federal debt because soon this debt will be placed on our shoulders,” said Kayla McMurry, a UT senior and club member. “With the rising age of baby boomers, our generation can’t keep up with the growth needed to continue having a thriving economy. We hope that by educating our peers on the size of the national debt now, we will help students realize this topic is extremely important as we start looking at our futures.”

The project also is part of the UT Economics Club’s entry into Up to Us, a nationwide federal debt awareness competition. Twenty-five colleges are participating in the contest.

The UT Economics Club won first place last year in a national financial literacy challenge and were energized from that experience to enter the Up to Us campaign, said Ken Baker, senior economics lecturer and club advisor.

“Most economists agree that if we don’t change our current spending and/or taxing levels soon, ten or twenty or thirty years from now we will all be living worse off than we otherwise would have if we had addressed our debt problem.”

For the box fort project, the Economics Club is partnering with UT Recycling, Net Impact, SPEAK, the Environmental Studies Club, and the UT Office of Sustainability.

The club “wanted to put it into a visual that would really catch students’ eyes and make them want to know more about what is going on,” said Outreach Coordinator and CAC AmeriCorps member Bea Ross.

UT Recycling Manager Jay Price believes this will show students the extent of their spending and the impact of consumerism.

“I think a lot of students are hands-on and visual and this gives them the opportunity to see that we bought all of this stuff and it costs a lot of money,” he said.

In the event of inclement weather, the fort-building will be postponed to a later date.

For more information about the Up to Us contest, visit the website.

To learn more about UT Recycling, visit the website.


Brooke Stevenson (865-974-7782,

Lola Alapo (865-974-3993,