Home Energy Investigation Contest Brings K-12 Students To CU-Boulder

Published: April 25, 2006

Middle and high school students from across Colorado will descend on the University of Colorado at Boulder April 28 for an event demonstrating that energy conservation can start at any age.

Bringing 150 students from 25 schools for what may be Colorado's largest energy education event of the year, the Colorado Energy Science Center's 2006 Home Energy Investigation Contest will showcase the students' findings from their investigation of the homes of their family and friends, and their recommendations for improving energy efficiency.

For the past six months, student teams from Boulder, Longmont, Denver and as far away as Grand Junction have investigated the energy usage of five homes each, collecting data and researching ideas for improving energy efficiency.

At the competition, to be held from 9:50 a.m. to 12:40 p.m. in the College of Engineering and Applied Science's Discovery Learning Center, the teams will present their findings and recommendations to a panel of judges from the energy industry. The experts will test the students' knowledge and research practices with tough questions to see if they understand how to read and analyze energy bills and compare homes for energy efficiency.

While these students likely aren't the ones paying the bills, their participation in the Home Energy Investigation Contest often results in changed habits that greatly reduce their families' energy bills, CESC representatives said.

Winning teams will receive a cash prize, but CESC representatives say the real prize is in its commitment to make energy efficiency improvements on homes. One home will be selected from each winning team for free energy upgrades, which could include weatherization, new insulation, furnace tune-ups, new ductwork and energy-efficient windows.

Following the competition, students will visit departments throughout the College of Engineering and Applied Science for a variety of demonstrations, including a demonstration of the Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation, concrete crushing in the civil engineering materials laboratory, a tour of CU's award-winning solar house, a demonstration of the SAE Formula racecar, and experiments testing the efficiency of a variety of light bulbs.

Students from CU's Multicultural Engineering Program will guide the K-12 students from activity to activity, sharing information about their experience as college students and engineers. Striving to increase the number of students traditionally underrepresented in the College of Engineering and Applied Science - specifically African-American, Hispanic, Native American and first-generation college students - MEP uses outreach activities such as the contest to motivate K-12 students to prepare and plan for college and to expose them to the exciting opportunities available in engineering.

In addition to raising students' awareness of energy issues at an early age, the CESC Home Energy Investigation Contest puts students' math and science skills to work through real life applications, organizers said.

Other sponsors of the CESC Home Energy Investigation Contest include Built Green Colorado, Energy Outreach Colorado, Environmental Protection Agency's Environmental Education Grant Program, CU-Boulder's College of Engineering and Applied Science, Rocky Mountain Association of Energy Engineers, Western Gas Resources, Inc. and the Xcel Energy Foundation.