Change is Good for the Green Energy Challenge

March 8, 2019

The Green Energy Challenge (GEC) competition has been an ELECTRI International highlight for 11 years. Student Chapter teams from across the country have entered their WELL-PREPARED proposals. Many enter each year – always with a new project, a new idea. The Foundation wanted to make sure the GEC stayed fresh and relevant to the electrical industry and for the students.

ELECTRI formed a GEC Review Committee to take a look at changes that might make the program even better. We spoke with two members of that review team – Tricia Ferry (VEC Inc.) and Adam Rude (ERMCO Inc.) to get their perspective on the strength of this ELECTRI initiative.

ELECTRI:  Why did you agree to serve on this review committee?

Adam: The substance and the requirements of the Challenge had been the same throughout the competition’s history. We wanted to shake it up, to make it more exciting.

Tricia: For me, it was time to go through the entire rules and procedures and clarify a number of points. We wanted to develop a clearer indication of what we expect from each team in their proposals.

 ELECTRI: Can you detail some of the changes for us?

Adam: The scoring system was cumbersome. We needed to refine the point system our judges use when evaluating each proposal. For example, if there are five required items, we want the student teams to know they can get a maximum of 10 points per section. I think our changes will help guide the students to learn what’s important as they put the project proposal together.

Tricia: Delivering a clear explanation about the scoring resulted in a huge improvement in expectations – both from the students and the judges. Also, the scores received for the written portion carries forward into the oral presentations for the finalist teams. That’s often a big help.

Adam: We really want to see many more Student Chapter teams enter the GEC – new teams, new blood. We want to be as clear as possible with the rules to help bring up underperforming teams. We should be giving each school a good chance to make it to the GEC finals.

ELECTRI: You recommended eliminating the Poster Competition. Why?

Tricia: We replaced posters with a video presentation requirement. In the video, personalities come out and it’s a good way to introduce the team.  The video contest replaces the poster competition. Just as contractors used to walk around and look at each poster, they now get to select the top videos.

Adam: We recognized posters are expensive to make and then transport to the NECA Convention. The younger the generation, the more they live “tech savvy”. We asked each team to document the proposal process on video, from the initial stage of design to working with their electrical contractor mentors to the required community project.

 ELECTRI: How are the Student Chapter teams responding to these changes?

Adam: I see positive changes in the competition as a result of our committee’s work.

Tricia: So do I.  I am particularly interested in the volunteer service requirement for each entry. The outreach these student offer to their communities is great. I do hope the teams continue their work with the organization they selected and let ELECTRI know that their volunteer service will continue post-GEC. The teams have really taken to heart the fact that “It’s what you give it.”

ELECTRI: Having a competition for 11 years is a long time. Are our electrical contractors still interested in seeing the GEC finals during the NECA Convention?

Adam:  I have been judging the GEC final presentations for 8 years and the crowds appear to get larger every year.  I believe contractors enjoy the presentations and it gives them an opportunity to identify students they may want to recruit for a position within their organization. 

Tricia: Not only do we attend, our company has hired some very good employees we first met when they were part of a Student Chapter competing team.  My hope for the Green Energy Challenge for the next five years is that we have more engagement, more participation, more NECA Chapters as mentors, and more students. We will all win.