A large group of people standing in front of a building, facing the camera.

Participants at the JUMP into STEM finals competition Jan. 26-27, 2003, at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory included students, professors, judges, national laboratory management, and the Department of Energy.

Ten students on teams from four universities were awarded top honors at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Building Technologies Office (BTO) annual JUMP into STEM final competition hosted live at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) on January 26-27, 2023.

In the first live finals since the 2019-2020 competition, the winning teams were part of the largest competition to date, with students from schools across the country, including HBCUs, participating. Winning students were offered paid 10-week summer internships at one of three national laboratories.

The four winning teams and the names of their projects, announced by Nicholas Ryan, Science, Technology, and Policy Fellow at BTO:

  • Vanderbilt University – Arielle Kopp, “Composite Beam Machine​”
  • Purdue University – Andrew Fix, Dohyeon Kim, and Sarah Alkandari, “MyHP+: A Personalized User-Friendly Heat Pump Economic Analysis Tool for Homeowners and Building Operators”
  • University of Nebraska - Lincoln – Anu Adeyemo, Danika Ratnapradipa, and Julia Ehlers, “The Fleet: Tiny Houses Repurposed in the Wake of Disaster​”
  • University of Louisiana at Lafayette — Parker Vice, Gabe Hoggard, and Zackery Trahan, “Eau-Tarp”

These students will have the opportunity to intern at national laboratories: four at NREL in Colorado, three at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, and three at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington state. Additionally, in a new pilot program of industry partner collaboration, select students will experience two days this summer at one of the industry collaborators so they can learn how building science technologies are implemented in the real world.

JUMP into STEM is among the nation’s largest building science competitions for undergraduate and graduate students at U.S. colleges and universities. A DOE-funded initiative, it seeks to inspire the next generation of building scientists, focusing on creative ideation and diversity in the building science field.

“This competition was very successful,” said Dr. Yeonjin Bae, the JUMP into STEM lead at ORNL. “The students are exceptional. It was extremely valuable being back in person, as we built in a lot of networking opportunities among the professors, national laboratories, industry representatives, and students. It was exciting to see students from various backgrounds and different majors bringing brilliant ideas together in such an impressive fashion.”

Teams were selected representing each of this year’s three JUMP into STEM challenges: “It’s Electric,” “Curb Your Carbon,” and “Sustainable and Resilient.” Students were inspired to respond to news-making and community issues and prepared projects that addressed one of these challenges.

The students who attended the competition were enthusiastic about the experience. Susan Mon from the Illinois Institute of Technology said the competition was very useful. “I got to understand and learn more in depth of how research labs work,” Mon said. “I met many knowledgeable people. Everyone was so nice and willing to talk about their experiences.”

Eesha Bilal, a competitor from the University of Texas at Austin, said: “The best aspect of the JUMP into STEM competition was meeting other students, undergraduate as well as graduate, who all came from much different backgrounds than me and presented such ingenious ideas. I am grateful to have met such an intelligent group of young researchers.”

Zach Parker from Metropolitan State University of Denver was similarly enthusiastic. “The opportunity to explore legitimate ideas in the STEM field is very helpful,” Parker said. “Until now, I mostly only had experience in school with theoretical concepts. Being able to fully flesh out ideas with the paper and presentation was great fun.”

The professors attending also saw value in the program. “It will forever change their perspective on turning ideas into reality,” said Dr. Olu Olatidoye, professor of engineering and director of the Center for Alternative, Renewable Energy, Technology and Training at Clark Atlanta University. “It expanded their horizon and opportunity.”

Dr. Davide Ziviani, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and associate director of the Center for High Performance Buildings at Purdue University, said, “JUMP into STEM has been a great program. The program can make a tangible impact to education, student careers and awareness about strategic topics.”

While the internships are at national laboratories, the two days of programming at NREL included representation from academia as well as industry. Competitors interacted directly with professionals during several sessions, including networking and career panels.

The new pilot program scheduled for this summer, the industry partner visit, will include in-person tours, networking sessions, and unique engagements specific to the industry partner that will take place concurrently with the winner’s 10-week national laboratory internship.

JUMP into STEM was sponsored by Clayton Home Building Group, which for the first time provided travel funds for all 20 students competing this year to attend in person at NREL in Golden, Colorado. The company is a Gold Level sponsor in its third year of sponsorship, demonstrating its commitment to future building scientists and engineers.

Matt Ewing, innovation manager from Clayton Homes, said: "I appreciated and enjoyed the opportunity to participate ... It was impressive to see how well the students managed the challenge and presented some really good ideas in such a short period of time."

Dr. Kim Trenbath, the JUMP into STEM lead from NREL, shared her perspective. “Industry partner visits will provide students with exposure to what it’s like to be in an industrial atmosphere,” Dr. Trenbath said. “It will be a fantastic experience, one which they’ve earned with their high-quality submissions. The students presented to an impressive panel of judges with unique technical and market expertise. We are pleased to welcome our four winning teams to internships at the national laboratories this summer. All participants displayed future potential for roles in the area of building science and technology.”

Dr. Trenbath added: “JUMP into STEM is an excellent example of how a BTO-funded project has a direct pathway to achieving equitable decarbonization. This initiative touches students, but also professors who will teach many other students, as well as national laboratory staff. These connections, especially connecting individuals who directly work with underserved populations with those who are doing cutting-edge research, is a step to proving affordable carbon neutral or carbon negative solutions that can achieve real uptake in the market across socioeconomic statuses."

The judges came from government labs, academia, and industry, including PNNL and California Polytechnic State University. An industry judge, Andrew Rodgers, co-founder of ACE IoT Solutions, said: “I'm very impressed by the teams and professor community that participated, and look forward to seeing these students in various roles in the industry and know they will make great contributions in the lab system during their internships.”