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Science Fair Elevated to a Whole New Level: Elevate and ABC/25 Foundation Organize Virtual STEM Fair

abc-25logo-150When you think of a science fair what comes to mind? Probably, a school gymnasium lined with tables where students present their projects on colorfully drawn poster board. While poster board is still a perfectly good tool for some school projects, Elevate Energy and ABC/25 Foundation wanted to give kids the opportunity to have fun and be creative with technology while exploring science, technology, engineering and math concepts. The video camera replaced poster board and YouTube replaced the gymnasium for the first ever Arlington Heights School District 25 Virtual STEM Fair.

ComEd_PoweringLogoAs administrators of ComEd’s Hourly Pricing Program, Elevate is always looking for ways to make households aware of the program so they can take advantage of electricity cost savings and other program benefits. When thinking of how best to reach the families of Arlington Heights, schools came immediately to mind because they are a great outlet for educating kids and parents alike. Having experienced how well nonprofits work together to achieve a common goal, the Elevate Hourly Pricing team approached the ABC/25 Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to creating a better community for District 25 students and families, to find a way to help each other and Arlington Heights’ families. From a few hours of creative brainstorming, the Virtual STEM Fair was born.

picHow does a virtual STEM fair work? Students think up a science, technology, engineering or math question/problem they want to answer/solve and design an experiment or project to address it. They then record a two minute video which walks through their experiment or project and provides the conclusion they drew. Students use any presentation, animation or movie making tools available to them either at school or home. After the student has submitted their video, judges review all the video entries and score them based not only how well they designed and conducted their experiment or project, but also how creatively they presented it in the video.

For this virtual STEM fair 40 students, individually or in groups, submitted 24 entries with topics ranging from magnets to plasma (“the fourth state of matter”) and hydrogen powered generators. Many of the entries showed the student of today’s incredible grasp of technology.

The entries were judged by a distinguished panel of Chicago STEM professionals who volunteered their time to support this unique STEM initiative:

  • Emma Berndt, Executive Director of University of Chicago’s Energy and Environment Lab
  • Ken Detina, Senior Account Manager at Siemens
  • Marjorie Isaacson, Director of Quality Assurance and Quality Control at Elevate Energy
  • Val Jensen, Senior Vice President of Customer Operations at ComEd
  • Ralph Muehleisen, Principal Building Scientist and Building Energy Decision and Technology Program Lead at Argonne National Laboratory

“I was happy to volunteer my time to reward students and support ABC/25 Foundation and ComEd’s Hourly Pricing program team in their work to promote STEM and help the community through this unique initiative,” said Emma Berndt of the University of Chicago. “The ingenuity and creativity displayed by all virtual STEM participants was truly impressive. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the next generation of minds at work.”

Scores were tallied and winners from each of the grade categories (K-2nd grade, 3rd – 5th grade, 6th – 8th grade) were determined and announced on the ABC/25 website on June 7th. The 1st place winner in each grade category received $50 and the 2nd and 3rd place winners received $25.

Nolan Gadberry, winner of the K-2 category, entered the fair because it allowed him to explore his interest in how parachutes work and “my big brother did a science project last year and it looked like fun. I really enjoyed testing the parachutes.” When asked what he plans to do with his hard-earned winnings, he replied, “I’m going to buy a Spider-Man costume!”

Congratulations to the winners! Watch their videos below.

In addition to giving District 25 students a unique learning experience and chance to win cash prizes, the virtual STEM fair also provided a forum to raise awareness about ComEd’s Hourly Pricing Program and a fundraising channel for ABC/25’s programs and initiatives. As the sponsor of the fair, ComEd’s Hourly Pricing program furnished the prizes for the winning entries but also created an opportunity for ABC/25 to earn donations for spreading awareness of Hourly Pricing. For every unique view of the ABC/25 page on the Hourly Pricing website the foundation earns $1 and for every new Hourly Pricing participant they referred they earn $50. The donations for webpage views and new participant referrals continue through October 15, 2016.

Elevate was thrilled to provide this opportunity to help shape future STEM leaders, and hopes that this Fair was just the beginning for some students as they continue to learn and explore opportunities in the STEM and energy fields. Whatever tools they use to get there, poster board or video cameras, we wish them the best in their future!

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