The winning team from Georgia Institute of Technology (From Left: Kira O’Hare, Katie Earles, Taylor Sparacello, and Catherine Moore).
The winning team from Clark Atlanta University (From Left: Destiny Currie and James Whitfield) stand with JUMP into STEM Director Mary Hubbard.

The winning teams from Georgia Institute of Technology (from left: Kira O’Hare, Katie Earles, Taylor Sparacello, and Catherine Moore) and Clark Atlanta University (from left: Destiny Currie and James Whitfield) stand with JUMP into STEM Director Mary Hubbard of DOE’s Building Technologies Office. ORNL, 2020.


The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Building Technologies Office (BTO) announced the winners of the annual, online building energy-efficiency competition, JUMP into STEM, at the final competition that occurred at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) on Friday, January 31, 2020. The national competition for undergraduate and graduate students, co-sponsored by ORNL and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), aims to attract innovative students from a variety of majors to the building science research profession.

Mary Hubbard, BTO's Technology to Market manager, and Michelle Buchanan, ORNL’s deputy director for science and technology, welcomed the finalists and congratulated the two winning teams:

  • Clark Atlanta University students James Whitfield and Destiny Currie won for their topic entitled, “Machine Learning-Based Thermostat and Lighting Controller.”
  • Georgia Institute of Technology students Kira O’Hare, Katie Earles, Taylor Sparacello, and Catherine Moore won for their topic entitled, “Behavioral Incentives on Children and Their Parents to Reduce Energy Consumption.”

"JUMP into STEM provides students with the opportunity to tackle real-world energy challenges by developing innovative approaches to reducing energy use in buildings,” said Buchanan. “ORNL was delighted to host this year’s competition, and we look forward to working with the next generation of researchers to advance the ideas generated by the competition."

Participating in the final phase of JUMP into STEM were students from universities throughout the nation, including Tennessee State University, University of California at Berkeley, University of Michigan, Carnegie Mellon University, and Hampton University. Winners receive a 10-week paid summer internship at ORNL or NREL.

“NREL is excited to be a part of the DOE JUMP into STEM program,” said Johney Green, NREL’s associate laboratory director for mechanical and thermal engineering sciences. “We see this program as a great way to develop the next generation of building scientists and we’re looking forward to hosting the winners at NREL again this year.”

The 2019–2020 program consisted of three concurrent challenges that ran online August 12-November 15, 2019. Technical webinars were provided in support for each of the challenges. Student teams could compete in any of the three challenges: 1) Smart Sensors and Controls for Residential Buildings; 2) Pushing the Envelope with Wall Retrofit Designs; and 3) Designing a Healthier and Energy-Efficient Air Distribution System. Finalists from the three challenges were invited to the final event competition held on Friday, January 31, 2020.

“This experience allowed me to glimpse into a field that has both fascinated and intimidated me for years,” said Katie Earles from the winning Georgia Institute of Technology team. “Researching behavioral strategies to reduce energy consumption was a phenomenal experience.”

Since 2015, JUMP into STEM has inspired the next generation of building scientists, focusing on creative ideation and diversity in the field. The diversity objective is inclusive of an interdisciplinary mix of majors and representation of women and minorities. A wide range of student disciplines can participate in JUMP, including computer science, data science, statistics, mathematics, physics, economics, sociology, meteorology, architecture, and various engineering disciplines in addition to the traditional building professional degrees of civil and mechanical engineering.

“At Hampton University, we encouraged engineering and architecture students to be on an interdisciplinary JUMP into STEM team. The JUMP competition provided us with a targeted research agenda and encouraged collaboration and innovation,” said Laura Battaglia, an assistant professor in architecture at Hampton University in Virginia. “Architectural practice has become research oriented and demands that designers understand how to move flexibility between different modes of problem solving. As a professor and practicing licensed architect, I believe that this type of education is vitally important."

Learn more about JUMP into STEM.