A group of people standing and facing the camera with a sign above them that says Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

JUMP (Join the discussion, Unveil innovation, Make connections, Promote tech-to-market) into STEM is launching its fourth year of challenges on August 16, 2021. The U.S. Department of Energy’s online building energy-efficiency competition is open to teams of two to four students enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities. The program encourages diverse students to solve critical challenges in the field of building science. To date, 14 students have interned at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) or the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) after winning the competition. New this year, winners of the competition will have the opportunity to receive paid 10-week internships at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in addition to ORNL and NREL.

While interns are typically hosted in person at the labs during their internships, ORNL and NREL both offered virtual internships to winners of the 2020 and 2021 competitions. Sarah Canastra, an undergraduate majoring in industrial systems engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and a 2020 final event winner, says that interning at ORNL has provided “an opportunity to go beyond creating ideas for projects, and to take the skills that I have been learning in the classroom and apply them to real scenarios in the building science field.”

This year, the competition is including energy justice across all three of this year’s challenge topics:

  • Equal Access to Healthy Indoor Air
  • Resilience for All in the Wake of Disaster
  • Solving Market Adoption for Emerging Energy Efficient Technologies.

Student submittals are judged in two rounds—first, challenge-level winners are selected from each of the three challenges that are run during fall semesters and eligible challenge-level winners are invited to compete against each other at the final event. All challenge-level winners receive the opportunity for one-on-one mentorship from a building science professional and eligible final event winners are offered paid 10-week summer internships. Since its inception, the program has been managed by ORNL and NREL. This year, PNNL has joined the team as a host institution for interns as final event winners will be awarded an internship at one of the three labs.

To reach students, JUMP into STEM works closely with professors at colleges and universities across the U.S., who offer the competition to their students as part of their curricula. Independent student teams are also encouraged to apply and no professor is required to compete. The professor team for this program year consists of returning and new members, many of whom are from faculty at minority-serving institutions and historically black colleges and universities. Interested professors are invited to give feedback during the development of challenges for the coming program year to ensure successful incorporation into their classes; webinars with professors are underway to support the integration of challenges into coursework.

The professor team includes faculty from a variety of fields of study—traditional building science fields such as architecture and engineering, but also public policy, computer science, economics, and more. “The competition will help in team building and collaboration. It is the opportunity to think for a practical solution, at the same time be creative,” says Trisha Gupta, a master’s student in architecture at Syracuse University and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and 2020 final event winner. Student teams with diversity of thought from different majors and experiences develop novel solutions while honing critical collaborative skills for their future careers. To facilitate student awareness of these impacts, a diversity statement was added as a required aspect of the submittal last year.

Challenges close on November 12, 2021. The final competition will be held at ORNL on January 27 and 28, 2022.

To learn more and to compete: www.jumpintostem.org.