Secretaries Chu and Duncan, NSTA Announce New Energy Education Initiative to Promote Energy Awareness and Efficiency

May 24, 2011

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu joined with U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Dr. Francis Eberle, Executive Director of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), today to announce the launch of a new energy education initiative: America's Home Energy Education Challenge. This initiative is working to educate America's youth about the benefits of energy efficiency, motivate students to play an active role in how their families use energy, and help families across the country save money. The program will encourage students, teachers, and families to learn more about energy consumption and efficiency and become more aware of how homes, schools, and utilities are interconnected within the community, while inspiring students to pursue studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

"Energy efficiency is all about helping families save money by saving energy," said Secretary Chu. "America's Home Energy Education Challenge leverages the passion and curiosity of students to encourage families across the country to reduce energy waste in their homes while inspiring the next generation of America's energy leaders."

"We all need to pitch in to make our homes and schools more energy efficient. America's Home Energy Education Challenge will teach students how science and common sense efforts can help all of us to do our part to save energy and save money as well as protect the environment," said Secretary Duncan.

"Science teachers nationwide will recognize that America's Home Energy Education Challenge is a valuable teaching tool that encourages active learning about energy and science and will help students to connect science to real world applications," said Dr. Francis Eberle.

The goal of America's Home Energy Education Challenge, which will be run by the National Science Teachers Association for the Department of Energy, is to leverage the creativity and enthusiasm of students nationwide to inspire families to save energy at home.

Part of America's Home Energy Education Challenge is the Home Energy Challenge, where this fall participating school teams in grades 3-8 will be asked to implement energy efficiency activities that reduce the energy use in their homes. Teams will be asked to monitor and measure their energy consumption over a specific three-month period and compare it to data from the same period the year before, to track if they have successfully reduced their energy use.

Teams will be composed of students and families who volunteer to participate and reduce energy waste in their homes. In order to generate additional enthusiasm and participation in the program, schools will be encouraged to compete against each other or establish competitions within their own schools between different grades, classrooms or clubs. Many local utility companies, non-profits and other organizations will also participate in the program by providing expertise and resources to teams involved in the challenge.

A winning school, grade, classroom or club will be chosen by teachers at the school. The local competition winners will then be entered into 11 regional competitions, broken out by climate zone. The first place regional award winners will be entered into the national competition. National winners will be selected based on their level of participation, energy savings, and overall quality and creativity of the competition. Participating schools can compete for more than $200,000 in prizes that will be distributed at the regional and national levels of the competition, including some additional prizes for honorable mention competitions. All participating schools and students will receive a DOE certificate of recognition, along with benefitting from the energy and money savings that come with energy efficiency improvements.

The second part of America's Home Energy Education Challenge is the Energy Fitness Award. Modeled after the President's Physical Fitness award, the Energy Fitness Award challenges students to better understand basic energy issues, including the connection between energy use and energy bills. Through the program's online activities, students will improve their knowledge of energy use in buildings, better understand energy-saving techniques, identify local energy-saving opportunities, develop an energy savings plan, and learn to undertake various energy use calculations. Students' participation and achievement levels will qualify them for one of three awards: the Joule, the Kilojoule, or the highest honor, the Megajoule Energy Fitness Award. The National Energy Fitness Awards will be awarded on a school-by-school basis and will be administered by a math teacher, science teacher, or other designated representative.

America's Home Energy Education Challenge is just one of the Department'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 U.S. leads the world in the coming years.

To register to join America's Home Energy Education Challenge or to find more information, please visit HomeEnergyChallenge.org.