Today at Berkeley Lab

Local Youths Compete in Lab’s First Energy Design Challenge

By Theresa Duque

On Aug. 15, nearly 30 youths from the Rising Sun Energy Center – a Berkeley-based nonprofit that offers 15-22-year-olds training and employment in clean energy jobs specializing in home energy and water efficiency – visited the Lab to compete in the first-ever Berkeley Lab Energy Design Challenge.

During the competition, participants applied what they have learned in two months of residential energy-efficiency work around the Bay Area. Teams were paired with a number of Lab mentor scientists, including Rich Brown, Howdy Goudey, Paul Mathew, and Iain Walker from the Energy Technologies Area (ETA), and Teresa Williams from the Molecular Foundry. In teams, the contestants had just three hours to analyze a property and develop an affordable (and sustainable) energy-saving strategy for a residential consumer. The judging panel included Josh Quigley from Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s office, Tasha Henneman from Senator Nancy Skinner’s office, and Lab scientist Leo Rainer (ETA).

The Energy Design Challenge is part of a pilot to relaunch the Lab’s Workforce, Development & Education (WD&E) K-12 programs. “We want these programs to be tied to the rich opportunities the Lab offers for scientific collaboration,” said WD&E Manager Colette Flood. “Programs like this are more project-based, showing students how research is actually done in the real world.”

Mara Lockowandt, the new manager of K-12 educational programs, created the competition with assistance from Jennifer Tang and Jim Hawley from the Lab’s Government and Community Relations Office, along with significant support and input from ETA’s Mathew and Rainer. Lockowandt noted, “Our Energy Design Challenge is an important step toward a K-12 program portfolio that focuses on creativity, innovation, collaboration, and youth empowerment. In addition to learning about the unique research and initiatives at the Lab, these youths are forming meaningful connections with STEM professionals and applying their skills to solve current problems.”

Based on resources and interest across the Lab, WD&E will be scaling out and adapting programs like the Energy Design Challenge to other divisions, Lockowandt added.

For more information about WD&E’s K-12 programs, go here or contact Lockowandt at MLockowandt@lbl.gov.