Youth

Elementary Students Conduct Their Own Lighting Audit

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Elementary Students Conduct Their Own Lighting Audit

At Hazeldean Elementary School in Edmonton, Grade 5 students created an energy efficiency program through the Innovative Elementary Program. The students were able reduce the energy consumption and cost of lighting at their school and teach other students and teachers about energy efficiency.

“Elementary kids are often overlooked about their ability to make changes and advocate to the things that they care about,” said Grade 5 teacher James Stuart, who manages the Innovate Elementary Program at Hazeldean. This project is one of many ways students have demonstrated the impact they can have in their school community.

They were able to go out into the school and make a measurable difference. [There were] real reductions and it was really rewarding for the kids.
— James Stuart

The first step was to learn about electricity, energy efficiency and light bulbs. Stuart along with some energy experts taught the students about different kinds of light bulbs and how much energy is used for each. They also learned about electricity, how it is produced in Alberta and the environmental impacts of the different types of production.

Next, students used their new knowledge to calculate their school’s electricity consumption by determining the types and consumption of light bulbs, and the number of each type of bulb throughout the building. From there, they monitored how many lights were on in each classroom, checking in at various times of the day to determine when classes were in session, when they were empty, and at the end of the day.

After collecting data, the students had to decide how they would present it. To make their information accessible to everyone, including the youngest students, they used made posters with photos and simple info boxes to teach their peers about the energy consumption of objects in their classroom. They included images of smart boards, desktop computers and lights with the amount of energy each consumed. The posters were distributed throughout the school.

The students also decided to create a contest for the classroom who was able to reduce their lighting energy consumption by the greatest amount. Using the information they had about each room’s energy consumption, they created a poster for each classroom showing its energy consumption. They continued to monitor the energy consumption of each classroom at random times until the end of the contest, with the winners earning hot chocolate made from the students’ self-made solar oven.

At the end of the lighting audit the Grade 5 group presented their findings during the school’s morning announcements. Over that time, they saw a reduction of 40 kWh. That is the equivalent of a 43-inch’ plasma TV running 32 hours a week for a month.

Through this project the students in Stuart’s Grade 5 classroom educated themselves, creatively engaged their school on the topic of energy efficiency, and were able to make changes in their school’s lighting electricity consumption.

“They were able to go out into the school and make a measurable difference,” said Stuart. “[There were] real reductions and it was really rewarding for the kids.”


For more information on education projects and opportunities in Alberta, see our resources page.

Submit your own new energy story here.

Project Footprint Helps Young Newcomers Take the Lead

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Project Footprint Helps Young Newcomers Take the Lead

Project Footprint is a program aimed at young newcomers to Canada, offering environmental programming at a school and housing development in Calgary. The program, run by the Calgary Immigrant Women's Association (CIWA), combines its programming and expertise to reach girls aged nine to 13 with environmental sustainability content.

Project Footprint, now in its third year, came about as a way to encourage and engage young immigrant girls in the global conversation about the environment and climate change, said Project Footprint’s program coordinator Amarjit Parmar.

We wanted to start the program up to get the conversation going, and develop some leadership skills in the girls to let them be global ambassadors
— Amarjit Parmar

“We wanted to start the program up to get the conversation going, and develop some leadership skills in the girls to let them be global ambassadors,” said Parmar.

 There are two parts to the program: regular weekly events with guest speakers, which focus on a wide range of environmental and sustainability topics. In addition, a mentorship program is held twice a month and connects the Project Footprint participants with older students, who work together to create and run sustainability projects.

Project Footprint participants also share their work with their community and peers. At CIWA’s annual youth forum the girls taught participants how to make reusable plastic wrap replacement using beeswax, coconut oil and fabric. Another year they flexed their green thumbs, teaching participants about gardening.

 The team mentorship projects vary each year depending on the interests of the participants. In the past, the young girls have run recycling programs, worked to reduce their plastic waste, and started an upcycling project to turn used clothing into new items.  

 “It was fantastic to see,” said Parmar about the upcycling project, which ended with a grand finale fashion show at school to show off the clothing they had redesigned. “The kids were so creative – they took shirts and made them into handbags.”

 The creativity and passion put into their projects may be fueled by the freedom and ownership they have. Parmar said the projects are based entirely on what the girls want to do, from conception to execution, while the youth mentors are there to support the implementation of the ideas and the creativity.

 “We are a girl’s program at heart,” said Parmar. “So self-confidence, sense of belonging and encouraging leadership is all there.”


For more information on education projects and opportunities in Alberta, see our resources page.

Submit your own new energy story here.

aGRO Systems Redefines the Role of Waste

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aGRO Systems Redefines the role of waste

Victoria Ross’s father has been a beef cattle rancher for almost 50 years, and she grew up on the ranch. And she knows that hard work doesn’t always pay the bills.

“On top of all the hard labour intensive farm work, [my father] was also doing a fulltime night job… He had to do both jobs to pay the bills,” said Ross, the founder of aGRO Systems.

In university, Ross started researching Canadian farmers, to see if other families experienced similar struggles. She found that around half of all Canadian farmers need a second job to make ends meet.

“[So many] of the people working to put food on our plates cannot afford to put food on their own plates.”
— Victoria Ross

Using her familiarity with Canadian farming and land sustainability, Ross started looking at the applications and possibilities for waste in farming. This inspired her to start aGRO Systems.

Alberta is Canada’s largest beef producer and, as such, also the largest beef manure producer. aGRO systems began with the aim of making this waste into something useful: electricity and fertilizer. Both are major expenses for farmers. This could be achieved with an onsite machine to capture the methane from the manure while converting to fertilizer. The methane could then be used for some basic power needs in the barns, while the fertilizer goes to farmers’ crops, making waste into a multipurpose asset. While working to make this system efficient and affordable, Ross came across another pressing waste problem, this time in the brewing industry.

A local brewery approached aGRO to figure out what to do with the by-product of the brewing process – spent grain. Viewed as waste by breweries, spent grain can be used as animal feed. Ross did some research and found that in the brewing process, “all of the sugars are extracted and what is left is a high-fibre and high-protein meal.”

In taking on this waste, aGRO could provide a service to local breweries and farmers, as well as the environment, since they are able to provide a cost-efficient solution for both, while making use of something that is traditionally thrown away.

In the future, aGRO Systems hopes to continue developing cost-effective models of the systems they created, with the aim of supporting Alberta’s producers in reducing both waste and their costs, while generating energy.

Ross’s enterprise is the perfect example of a young Albertan innovator confronting local problems and using the principles she was raised on to generate a win-win solution.


Learn more about aGRO Systems, here.

For more information on bioenergy in Alberta, see our resources page.

Submit your own new energy story here.

Students on Sustainability helps add environment to elementary education

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Students on Sustainability

Students on Sustainability is a group of university students in Calgary working on bringing more environmental education to Alberta classrooms.

Growing up in Calgary and going through the public school system, the group’s founder Patrick Duke felt as though he had received a quality education, but found climate change wasn’t thoroughly included in his schooling. Even when it was, he said, it wasn’t multidisciplinary, it was often rushed, and was usually only offered within a higher level science course.

“Your grades should not hold you back from this kind of education,” said Duke, “from being aware and being environmentally conscious.”

Environmental education shouldn’t be something only for some students. Duke sees climate change as a topic that should be “for everyone – in science, the humanities and option classes throughout a student’s education.”

In his own education, Duke saw the effects of learning more about climate change in his first year of university. Duke enrolled in the petroleum geology program, “because my parents, my neighbors, and my friends all worked in oil and gas.” But when he started learning more about climate change in one of his first-year courses, he changed programs.

Climate change is happening and it is something students need to be informed about so that they can think about it when picking a career for the future.
— Patrick Duke

“Climate change is happening and it is something students need to be informed about, so that they can think about it when picking a career for the future,” he said.

With Students on Sustainability, Duke hopes their lessons will “open up perspectives and career choices that a student wouldn't think of otherwise as an option.”

Duke founded Students on Sustainability in December of 2017, and started to collaborate with education groups to generate content that meets the regular requirements of Alberta lesson plans, but with a slight spin on sustainability. By the end of January the group had 28 volunteers trained to give curriculum-based lessons across Calgary, and hopes to soon expand their reach across the province.

One group Students on Sustainability works with is the Alberta Council on Environmental Education (ACEE), which helps connect students to its network of teachers. From February to June last year, Students on Sustainability delivered a total of 35 school presentations and participated in several events, reaching some 1,500 kids in their first few months of outreach.

Students on Sustainability allows for younger students to learn about sustainability from a university student who is engaged and passionate about what they are doing. Duke said that this dynamic is key to their success.

“It’s impactful,” he said. “The students often look up and connect to the university students. Having that different perspective in the classroom is great.”

Learn more about Students on Sustainability, here.

For more information on environmental education in Alberta, see our resources page.

Submit your own new energy story here.

Nurturing Students on the Innovation Front

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Nurturing Students on the Innovation Front

The Innovate Program is a way for high school students to learn outside of a traditional classroom setting and do hands-on projects based on real world problems. The students are able to take on a project of their choice and are supported by educational staff, connected to resources and provided education credits for their work. Most projects emphasize sustainable development, emerging technology, reimagining citizenship for a rapidly changing world and entrepreneurship.

Aaron Dublenko, teacher at Queen Elizabeth High School in Edmonton and mastermind behind the project says, “this program assists students in developing mindsets that empower them to confidently design and implement solution oriented projects.” It also creates an opportunity for them to develop skills through hands-on trial and error and collaboration with peers and experts.

Innovate provides an opportunity for students to explore their interests, creates an encouraging space to make mistakes and troubleshoot designs as well as be creative in what they produce. Here are some of the projects students created.

Green Career Fairs

Students and staff organized five “Green Career Fairs” in Edmonton Public High Schools. Each school hosted 30-40 vendors per fair, with a total of more than 6,000 youth learning about environmentally focused career options. Students in the Green Career Fairs program created questionnaires, informative maps, and fundraised through grants for shirts, snacks and door prizes for the events.

Buildings that Teach

Through this program students explore, learn and change the way energy and resources are used in their school. In the past, students installed Smart Meters in a local arena to analyze electricity consumption. Another group researched their school’s solar passivity potential, natural light, and air quality. Others have completed energy audits, thermal analysis and used DENT meters to record light use over time in their schools. They use their research to inform necessary groups and work to cause infrastructural and behavioral changes in order to reduce the carbon footprints and costs of building operations in their schools and other large buildings.

The Mosaic of Youth Voices on Climate Change

Innovate Students are creating a series of podcasts titled “The Mosaic of Youth Voices on Climate Change.” In these podcasts, students write questions and interview their peers to create discussions about climate change and their future in Alberta. In collaboration with Edmonton’s historian laureate, the students are working to strengthen and illuminate the youth voice on climate change, as well as generate discussion about these topics among their peers.


For more information on how to undertake your own education project, check out the resources page.

Submit your new energy story here.


Up to Speed: Youth Pushing Boundaries of Vehicle Technologies

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Up to Speed: Youth Pushing Boundaries of Vehicle Technologies

The University of Calgary Solar Car team and the University of Alberta EcoCar team are two great examples of Alberta students taking hands-on action to teach themselves and their communities about renewables and clean technology. These student groups design, build and race solar electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in national, continental and international competitions.

University of Calgary Solar Car team

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The University of Calgary Solar Car Team aims to participate in several competitions, but primarily in a three-day race in America. The team is made up of 65 students in four main undergraduate subteams: Mechanical, Electrical, Software, and Business. Engineering Project Manager, Morgan Grab, says one of the team’s main objectives is to involve students in every step of the design, build and troubleshooting process, giving them hands-on experience through working on an electric car and with solar modules.

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Business Project Manager Sarah Lam appreciates how the team enables her to empower other people and connect to her community. She says through its outreach, primarily classroom presentations and talks, team members feel as though they are able to “generate excitement about the possibilities in energy that we will have in the future,” and to teach younger students about the basics of renewable energy and car design. They also engage with the larger Calgary community by showcasing renewables as a viable and tangible option for Albertans. Grab says that by working on solar, they show “it’s not in the background or overseas, but it’s happening here, in the heart of Calgary.”

University of Alberta EcoCar team

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The University of Alberta EcoCar builds two hydrogen fuel cell vehicles: an urban car that emulates the look of an normal car, and a racing prototype. They compete at the Shell Eco Marathon, a continental efficiency competition in the U.S. Their team is composed of undergraduate and graduate students divided in six sub-teams totalling around 80 members.

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The team engages with the community through showcasing their cars at events, going to schools, engaging with political figures, university alum, and staff. Many students are drawn to the group as it allows them to practically apply their degree. Mechanical team lead, Shivam Jasawl, sees the benefit in participating in design and redesign cycles. Shivam says working on EcoCar gives him a chance to “apply what I am learning about, make my own assumptions and test them, and if everything I assumed was completely wrong, I get to ask why was it wrong and iterate it.”

“If the members of EcoCar continue to work in Alberta, we can take the principles we have learned about sustainability and efficiency and apply it to wherever we work in the future,” he adds.


These groups show things can be done differently, and students are ready to be a part of, and maybe one day lead, this innovation.

“This is oil country. When people hear that students are doing something different with hydrogen in Alberta, it makes an impact,” Shivam says.

As Grab puts it, “it’s always in the forefront of our mind that we can do things a different way. I hope that we can be that spark, that starts that innovation and gets people’s minds going about renewables. We want to show that it is possible and that there is an alternative.”


For more information on how to undertake your own clean technology project, check out the resources page.

Submit your new energy story here.