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Students from Derby High School, in Derby, Kansas, were awarded first place in the 2021 National STEM Innovation Challenge. The Virtual Challenge ran from February 1, 2021 – April 15, 2021, and challenged students to present innovative plans to reduce their school’s carbon footprint while increasing comfort conditions, and delivering a net-zero impact to their community. The contest was designed to help high school students learn about careers in energy and its connections to STEM and other business disciplines. Louisa County High School, from Louisa, Virginia, took home second place honors. Read our news release here to learn more about this challenge and the finalists’ impressive submissions.

About the Challenge


  • Build student awareness of the many careers in energy;
  • Provide authentic experiences through solving problems that are important to the industry;
  • Link to academically rigorous science and mathematics requirements and address important student learning outcomes;
  • Allow students to apply technical knowledge and skills through assessing information, testing hypotheses, and problem solving;
  • Obtain project management experience relevant across industries, including teamwork, developing solutions, and presenting results orally or in writing.

The Challenge: Students today want to solve problems that are meaningful and relevant to themselves, their families, and their local communities. They want to feel that they can make a difference. The predicated problem to solve is: When thinking of efficiency and sustainability as it relates to your school and transportation to and from, develop an innovative plan to reduce your school’s carbon footprint, increase comfort conditions, and have a net-zero impact to your community.

Student Teams: Students eligible to participate will be determined by school staff / leadership. Students enrolled in STEM, business, and/or related coursework are encouraged to participate. Each school is allowed up to two 8-10-person student teams.

Mentorship Matching*: – Industry partners will serve as competition mentors for schools in their region during the semester-long Challenge. Student teams will present their solutions on April 1st on a regional level and winners from each region: North, South, East, and West will be invited to National Shark Tank Competition on April 15th designed to recognize student achievement and industry collaboration.

Industry Mentors:  Industry partners will assign a staff member(s) to serve as the point of contact and industry mentor(s). The number of mentors may be determined by the industry partner.

  • RECOMMENDATION: 1 team lead per high school and 2-3 employees per school serving as industry mentors.
  • An application for each school must be completed and signed by industry partner.

High School / Industry Partner Communication:  Participating teachers will coordinate virtual connections and email correspondence between the student teams and their industry mentors. Frequency of virtual visits and email communications to be determined by teacher and mentors.

*What do I do if I do not have an industry partner: We encourage you to participate even if you do not have an industry partner. We can work to put you in touch with your local energy utility, but it is not a pre-requisite for the competition. Schools will be required to submit a completed application in order to compete.

2021 Challenge Timeline:

  • October 2020– The 2021 STEM Innovation Challenge is announced.
  • February 2021 – Student challenge begins with virtual video kickoff that addresses the parameters of the Challenge.
  • February  – April 2021 – Industry mentors engage virtually with student teams and potentially through classroom and industry visits and teacher coordinated email correspondence. Frequency of visits and email communications to be determined by teacher and mentors.
  • April 2021 – Student teams deliver virtual presentations to industry partner judges in “Shark Tank Competition”.

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