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Andrew McNeally, left, administrator of the energy efficiency program at UPPCO, presents an award to Houghton Middle School seventh-grade student Lucas Mayra, right, who was a finalist in the rEV Challenge, at the college on Tuesday after- midday. Sarah Geborkoff, a science teacher at Houghton Middle School, and contest winner Morgan Saatio, a seventh-grader, look on. (Photo Houghton Daily Mining Gazette by Garrett Neese)

HOUGHTON – Not all calls to the principal’s office are a bad thing.

As they rounded the corner on Wednesday afternoon, two students from Houghton Middle School had a pleasant surprise – being presented with prizes in a national competition.

Seventh-graders Morgan Saatio and Lucas Mayra were named the winner and runner-up, respectively, of the rEV Challenge, a multimedia program for middle and high school students organized by the National Energy Foundation. The students made a 30-45 second video about the future of electric vehicles and the benefits they could bring.

Andrew McNeally, Energy Efficiency Program Administrator at UPPCO, presented the awards. Saatio and teacher Sarah Geborkoff won $2,000 gift certificates for e-bikes, while Mayra won a GoPro.

The news was hidden from Saatio and Mayra, as well as Geborkoff.

Saatio clapped his hands over his mouth in disbelief after hearing the news.

“I thought I was in trouble” said Saatio. “I came here and saw it all and I was like, ‘Oh no, what’s going on?’ I am on the verge of tears. It’s crazy.”

Saatio edited the video on his phone, combining his own digital art and royalty-free clip art. She provided her own background music on guitar.

“I focused on how it’s better for the environment and some key parts of the vehicle itself, like the fact that it doesn’t need to be recharged as often as you need to. full”, she says. “And there are fewer harmful emissions than a normal gasoline vehicle.”

Mayra’s video featured her small electric car, which led her to talk about how long electric vehicles can travel on a single charge and how they will become more mainstream. Last year, the big three automakers jointly announced their goal of having electric vehicles account for 40-50% of sales by 2030.

He hopes future Houghton students will be able to participate in the program.

“I think it was a very good experience for me, learning about EVs,” he said.

Houghton students competed against more than 3,300 students from 48 schools in 16 states. UPPCO sponsored the program in six schools in its service area, in which 526 students participated.

Geborkoff said the program matched his curriculum, where students were just introduced to green energy versus non-renewable energy. They had also learned about fuel cells and green energy through a hydrogen fuel cell project with Michigan Technological University’s SAE Enterprise team.

The students started with what Gerborkoff likened to a “Choose Your Own Adventure” video where they had to decide on fuel consumption, choice of vehicle and frequency of driving. Students then explored their own course and learned the pros and cons of electric vehicles.

Students looked at last year’s projects and talked about this year’s project. Several groups of students took up Geborkoff’s challenge to get involved in the competition.

Geborkoff thanked UPPCO and everyone who supported the project.

“These are the kinds of extensions beyond the classroom that students need,” she says. “It gets them to really think things through, to be creative, and to apply what they’ve learned in new ways. The price is the icing on the cake. And we only have excellent students at HPTS who always want to take on these types of challenges. So they are a good thing.



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