PECO Energizing Education Program Innovation Challenge is a BRIGHT SPOT for Students at SHMS in PA.
Written by: Sarah Elmer, Winnie Stach & Kelly Rainey, Strath Haven Middle School Students

This year a group of 8th grade students from Strath Haven Middle School took on the P.E.E.P Innovation Challenge. When identifying the problem we wanted to address, we knew we wanted do something that the community could benefit from. We reached out to the district sustainability committee and heard about the Panthers for Panels project. There was a group of community members trying to get solar energy going in the district. We met with Mr. Russ Johnson, a district parent and former science educator who’s been working with Panthers for Panels. Our goal was to find out how feasible it would be to put solar panels on the Panther Pit, our school snack bar that is used at sports games and other events. We also wanted to compare the current energy demand to the possible production of the added solar panels. We figured it would help the district to see the benefits of panels on a small scale and also hopefully inspire community members to make the change on their own homes.

   PECO educator speaking with students

We worked with Mr. Johnson to complete an inventory and energy audit of the Panther Pit. We used the data collected to calculate the approximate kilowatt-hour demand. We found the Panther Pit uses a little more energy in a year than the average home in Pennsylvania. Our principal invited us to go with him to a school board meeting to present our findings which turned out to be great practice for the Innovation Challenge judging. In addition to a lot of data analysis we also made a scale, working model of the Panther Pit. We used foam board and hot glue to construct the building and then attached mini solar panels on the south facing roof sides which we connected to LED diodes in the ceiling to power up our model.


We had a great time at the 2018 P.E.E.P Innovation Challenge. Being our first year we did not know what to expect when went to present our ideas, but we never expected to win. Our team was so honored to take the top prize. We’d like to thank the The Exelon Foundation, PECO, The NEED Project and the Franklin Institute for sponsoring this amazing event. We’d also like to thank the judges for hearing out our ideas and giving us helpful feedback it was great to meet STEM professionals and hear how they got where they are today. Thank you to Mr. Johnson for guiding us through our audit. Finally we have to give our thanks to Ms. Locke, our science teacher who asked us to take on the challenge. Ms. Locke was supportive and encouraging throughout the whole experience.

PECO Students
Group Picture above:  (Front L-R) Sarah Elmer, Yamen Jlilati, Winnie Stach, Brian Forbes, Morgan McErlean, Zaria Davidson. (Back L-R) Kelly Rainey, Will McCambridge, Owen Rosenbluth, Sebastian Motsch, Kevin Bodi, Ryan Lynch, Noah Sacks, Kiera Kurz.

Thanks to these awesome students for contributing to our blog!  For more photos from this year’s Innovation Challenge Celebration,, and for more information on our PEEP programming, head to