Screenshot of a virtual meeting showing 13 student participants.

The 10 JUMP into STEM final competition winners and management team. Top row, left to right: Kyra Owensby, Alexandra Kahl, Samantha Eddy, Xinyang Rui, Alka Khadka. Middle row, left to right: Haley Matthews, Aryanna Sanchez, Xiang Huo, Grant Walker, Xinyan Liu. Bottom row, left to right: Dr. Fredericka Brown, DOE; Dr. Kim Trenbath, NREL; and Dr. Yeonjin Bae, ORNL.

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Building Technologies Office (BTO) awarded top honors to students from four universities during the annual JUMP into STEM final competition hosted virtually by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) on January 27-28. The winning teams were part of the largest competition to date, with 84 ideas submitted from 251 students at 27 different schools from across the country. Winning students were offered paid summer internships at a national laboratory.

Four winning teams were announced by Dr. Fredericka Brown, a AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow in the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Science, Technology and Policy Program:

  • University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Alexandra Kahl and Kyra Owensby, “Backup Power in the Wake of Disaster​”
  • Oklahoma State University’s Alka Khadka and Grant Walker, “R3ER Shelter Design: Cowboy Covers”
  • University of Utah’s Samantha Eddy, Xiang Huo, Xinyan Liu, and Xinyang Rui, “Advancing Resilient Communities in Remote Area​”
  • Embry-Riddle’s Aeronautical University’s Haley Matthews and Aryanna Sanchez, “Eagles for Energy”

Dr. Yeonjin Bae, the JUMP into STEM lead at ORNL, spoke of the final event’s impact, commenting, “The two-day final competition was very successful. Although we had a virtual event again this year, the participants were very engaged with the competition. We were excited to see that students from various backgrounds and different majors brought brilliant ideas together at the JUMP into STEM building science competition!”

Teams were selected from a total of nine representing each of the three JUMP into STEM challenges:  Equal Access to Healthy Indoor Air; Resilience for All in the Wake of Disaster; and Solving Market Adoption for Emerging Efficiency Technologies. Students were inspired to respond to news-making and community issues. Aryanna Sanchez, who worked on the Eagles for Energy Challenge noted, “it was great to have a platform to speak about something that I'm passionate about.”

Historically, internships have been offered at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) or ORNL. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) joins the participating labs this year. Sarah Newman, the team lead for tool development in the Building Simulation & Design Group at PNNL, reported that PNNL is “thrilled to be participating in JUMP into STEM for the first time this year. We were impressed by all of the students participating in the final competition and look forward to hosting two at our lab this summer.”

JUMP into STEM also expanded to include two new sponsors, DRC Construction at the Bronze Level and Hy Stor Energy at the Silver Level. Clayton Home Building Group also cemented their support in the JUMP into STEM program by maintaining their role as a Silver Level sponsor for a second year.

While the awarded internships are at national laboratories, the two days of programming included representation from academia as well as industry. Student competitors had the opportunity to interact directly with professionals during several sessions, including a two-part career panel and panel with past JUMP into STEM winners Sarah Tinsley and Megan Bush.

Jason Talford, a competitor from the University of Idaho, confirmed that “excellent speakers from supporting labs, mentors, prompts, panels have given me many insights into a potential career direction.”

Dr. Karl Heine, a professor from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, described another added benefit for his students: “Their ability to interact with the researchers from the national labs has been very eye-opening for them. Most of them did not have any interest or knowledge of the research world, as our institution is undergraduate-only.”

The JUMP into STEM initiative seeks to inspire the next generation of building scientists while still students, focusing on creative ideation and diversity in the building science field. Dr. Kim Trenbath, the JUMP into STEM lead from NREL, shared her perspective on the last program year.

“We are so proud of the students who participated in the 2021-2022 JUMP into STEM competition,” Dr. Trenbath said. "We had numerous high-quality challenge submissions, and an excellent cohort of challenge finalists who presented during our 2022 final event to a panel of judges with technical and market expertise. We are pleased to welcome our four winning teams to internships at the national laboratories this summer. All participants considered energy or environmental justice when addressing the challenge and developing solutions, which shows how our young people are catalyzing change for communities.”