Energy Secretary Chu Announces Montana Schools Win National Student Efficiency Competition

May 2, 2012

Secretary of Energy Steven Chu today announced the winners of the America's Home Energy Education Challenge, a national student competition designed to encourage students and their families to take action to start saving money by saving energy. A team of students from five schools in rural Carter County, Montana—Alzeda Elementary School, Carter County High School, Ekalaka Elementary School (K-8th grade), Hammond School (K-8th grade), and Hawks Home School—was declared the national winner for successfully reducing their home energy use by 3.4%, working with local utility companies and the community, and keeping students engaged throughout the process. The five schools will share the $15,000 they won as both a regional winner and as the national champion. Secretary Chu made the announcement on a conference call with Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, Dr. Gerald Wheeler, Interim Executive Director of the National Science Teachers Association, and Marlene Waterland, an official with the Southeast Electric Cooperative representing the winning team.

"By engaging America's students at a young age to apply the math and science skills they're learning at school to our energy challenges, the Obama Administration is working to ensure that these bright minds have the tools they need to lead our nation's clean energy future," said Secretary Chu. "America's Home Energy Education Challenge is helping to unleash the ingenuity, creativity, and drive from these inspiring students to demonstrate simple ways that families and businesses can reduce energy use and save money through energy efficiency."

"It is absolutely essential that students have a solid foundation in math and science to compete in a global world. I am very proud of the students in Carter County for using those skills to make their state and country a better place for everyone by reducing their energy use," said Governor Brian Schweitzer, who along with First Lady Nancy Schweitzer have a math and science initiative for Montana students. "The skills they have learned for this project will be valuable for the rest of their lives."

The Challenge, which is run by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) for the Energy Department, challenged teams of third through eighth grade students to work with their science teachers and local utility companies to develop energy use savings plans that reduce the amount of energy used to power their homes. Each student team monitored and measured their energy consumption between September and November 2011, and then compared it to data collected during the same three-month period the year before.

The winning Montana team involved each of the five schools in Carter County, Montana, and included a significant focus on involving the community and educating students and families. The team engaged a representative from the local utility—the Southeast Electric Cooperative—to coordinate the program and provide trainings for each of the schools. Students also sat down to talk to their family members about steps they could take to save money by saving energy, including turning off the lights when leaving the room, running the laundry machine with cooler water and full loads, and in an agricultural community, using timers to set charging times for tractors.

"The America's Home Energy Education Challenge is a perfect example of a dynamic, active learning experience that stimulates the interest and creativity of children," said Dr. Patricia Simmons, NSTA President. "This partnership between business, government, and educators has been a very effective way to show kids the direct connection between science, math, and their everyday lives."

The Challenge included regional competitions, so student teams would face off against teams in similar climates. Regional winners then competed in a national competition, where they were evaluated based on their energy savings plans, energy savings, the level of student participation, community involvement and creativity.

The four regional winners each received $5,000 and include: Bell Middle School, Golden, Colorado; West Carter Middle School, Olive Hill, Kentucky; Cold Spring Elementary School, Potomac, Maryland; and Siersma Elementary School Warren, Michigan. See the full list of the Challenge winners, including honorable mentions.

In addition, the Challenge included a poster competition to encourage students to find artistic ways to continue to encourage their families and communities to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. Estes Park Middle School in Estes Park, Colorado received $1,000 as the National Poster Winner for visually demonstrating simple, inexpensive ways to reduce energy usage and save money. See a slide show of some of the posters from the competition.

America's Home Energy Education Challenge educates America's youth about the benefits of energy efficiency, motivates students to play an active role in how their families use energy, and helps families across the country save money by saving energy. The program encourages students, teachers, and families to learn more about energy consumption and efficiency while also becoming more aware of how homes, schools, and utilities are interconnected within the community. It also hopes to inspire students to pursue studies in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

America's Home Energy Education Challenge is just one of the Department of Energy's initiatives focused on educating today's youth to become tomorrow's clean energy leaders. By improving energy efficiency education, DOE is actively promoting the use of math and science skills that can be applied in a broad range of other educational and daily activities. The program also supports President Obama's goal of engaging today's students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education, which will lay the groundwork for America's future prosperity and help ensure the United States leads the world in the coming years.

More information on America's Home Energy Education Challenge can be found at Home Energy Education Challenge website or go to EERE's website.