Christian Learning Center Takes Top Prize in Heartland SunPowered Student Challenge

A Heartland-sponsored team from Christian Learning Center in Fort Scott was named Grand Champion at the first-ever SunPowered Student Challenge held Feb. 5 in Topeka. Eleven teams from across the state competed at the event. Pictured from left to right: Science teacher (and Heartland member) Scott Cain, Ethan Hill, Ryan Koch, James Kobernat and Sam Love.  
Two high school teams sponsored by Heartland Rural Electric Cooperative took home honors at the first-ever SunPowered Student Challenge, a statewide solar energy competition founded by the Kansas Electric Cooperatives (KEC), Heartland REC, Ten80 Education, and Pitsco Education.
A Heartland-sponsored team from Christian Learning Center in Fort Scott took home the top prize, with each team member winning a $1,000 scholarship. Meanwhile, another Heartland-sponsored team consisting of students in Greenbush’s gifted education program received the “Powerful Presentation” award.
From left, Christian Learning Center students Ryan Koch, Sam Love, Ethan Hill and James Kobernat work on their strategy for optimizing solar production during the first-ever SunPowered Student Challenge, held Feb. 5 in Topeka. The CLC team was named Overall Champion at the event.
This brand-new competition sought to bring real-world electricity knowledge and industry practices to high school-age students across the state. As solar power becomes more prevalent in the United States, it becomes increasingly important to educate current and future electricity customers about responsible energy consumption, jobs in electricity, and even degrees obtainable in Kansas colleges.
Armed with newfound knowledge and hands-on practice obtained the prior semester, 11 student teams from across Kansas—as far west as Colby and as far east as Fort Scott—joined forces in Topeka on February 5 to perform real-time challenges, present findings, and prove their solar energy knowledge—all before industry professionals.
Event highlights included a speech by Mike Beene, Assistant Secretary of Kansas Department of Commerce and former educator, who spoke to the power of workforce development and Kansas’ desire to invest in its future; scholarships for the winning teams; and the following winners and their sponsors across all categories:
  • Overall Champion – Christian Learning Center (Fort Scott), Heartland REC
  • Creative Curb Appeal – Colby High School (Colby), Midwest Energy
  • Powerful Presentation – Greenbush Service Center (Girard), Heartland REC
  • Commendable Collaboration – Thomas More Prep-Marian (Hays), Midwest Energy; Solomon High School (Solomon), DSO; Boy Scouts of America Troop 222B/1222G (El Dorado), Butler Electric Cooperative
With teams already ramping up for next year’s competition, plus plans to expand the event to additional states, it’s looking like the Sunflower State’s inaugural competition will be the first of many. Team registration will be available in the coming months.
The SunPowered founders would like to thank all the 2024 sponsors: KEPCo, Sunflower Electric Power Corporation, Evergy, Today’s Power, EDF Renewables, and especially the following Kansas electric co-ops who sponsored individual student teams:
  • 4 Rivers Electric Cooperative
  • Bluestem Electric Cooperative
  • Butler Electric Cooperative
  • DSO Electric Cooperative
  • Flint Hills Rural Electric Cooperative
  • FreeState Electric Cooperative
  • Heartland Rural Electric Cooperative
  • Midwest Energy
  • Pioneer Electric Cooperative
  • Rolling Hills Electric Cooperative
  • Sedgwick County Electric Cooperative
  • Southern Pioneer Electric Cooperative
  • Sumner-Cowley Electric Cooperative
  • Twin Valley Electric Cooperative
  • Victory Electric Cooperative

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