Investing in Energy Education: A Bright Idea

Summer break is usually just that- a break from studies and homework. But recently an exceptional group of students participating in Exelon’s Opt4STEM Energy Academy elected to join Habitat Chicago on our worksite for lessons on energy efficiency in home design and construction.


The Opt4STEM Energy Academy is an immersive energy education program open to Von Steuben Metropolitan High School students who demonstrate an interest in science, engineering, or the energy industry. Entry is competitive— students must apply and interview for a limited number of slots. Once accepted, students spend nine days learning about energy efficient home design with Habitat, tour Exelon Nuclear and Solar Plants, complete an energy audit of the Illinois Institute of Technology, and learn about career paths in energy fields.


During their time with Habitat, students toured a new, affordable, energy efficient home and learned some of the methods Habitat implements in the building process to keep them running efficiently for their future owners, such as:


• Installing double-paned windows filled with Argon gas. Argon gas is clear and denser than air, which allows heat to be trapped inside the home during the winter, and keeps heat and UV rays outside the home in the summer.

• Using blown-in cellulose insulation that is designed to fill even the smallest spaces and cracks to reduce drafts.

• Selecting energy efficient furnaces and water heaters to help future homeowners save on energy costs.

• Habitat Chicago’s exploration into building passive-ready homes. Passive homes can use as little as 10% of the energy an average home uses.


Though the students initially enrolled in Energy Academy because of their interest in studying and pursuing a career in science or engineering, at the end of the day, the lessons they cited as most meaningful came back to the value of energy efficiency for their homes and their communities.


• Jason said that it was “surprising to learn that it’s better to have more windows,” when it comes to energy efficiency.

• When asked when he’ll use what he’s learned in Energy Academy, Omar said “When helping my family decide to buy the most energy efficient products.”

• Jason added, “[I] now know what I can do at home to save energy.”

• “Anyone should be interested in energy efficient homes,” Julia said to sum up the day. “[Not only] as a way to help save energy, but to educate others on how to save energy in their community.”


Since 2013, Habitat Chicago has been proud to partner with Exelon, America's leading competitive energy provider. To date, Exelon has invested over $400,000 into Habitat’s work in West Pullman, including three full-home sponsorships and grant funding for our energy efficiency education and weatherization kit distribution program.


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