NREL: JUMP Into STEM Continues To Open Doors to the Building Science Industry

Buildings are used every day by almost all members of U.S. society, which is why diversity in building science professionals is critical to better understanding the needs of all building occupants.

JUMP into STEM is designed to inspire the next generation of building scientists through hands-on learning that culminates with an opportunity to win an internship at a national laboratory. With diversity at the forefront, the collegiate competition emphasizes the inclusion of an interdisciplinary mix of majors and students underrepresented in the building science field.

“JUMP into STEM incorporates a unique experience right into college courses to solve real-world building science problems, giving students more exposure to research and careers in the building sciences,” said Kim Trenbath, NREL innovation lead for systems technology research and development in the Building Technologies and Sciences Center. “As the program grows, the most rewarding aspect is the opportunity to foster a sense of belonging among underrepresented groups, increasing the likelihood that these students will move into building science careers.”

Students have the opportunity to explore their passions and specific skills to solve one of three challenges. This year’s challenges focus on developing holistic solutions to address energy and environmental justice across the country:

Equal Access to Healthy Indoor Air: To address indoor air quality (IAQ) inequities in the United States, students will develop a holistic solution relating to the technical aspects of IAQ as well as other areas including IAQ-related policy, epidemiology, environmental justice, community economic impact, commercialization, codes and standards, and appropriate metrics development.
Children in a gymnasium.
Students play in an indoor gym by RTA Architects. Photo by David Lauer Photography

Resilience for All in the Wake of Disaster: The objective of this challenge is to develop holistic solutions to improve the resilience of the built environment, making equity a central focus of the proposed solution by strengthening the ability of communities—especially those that are underserved, marginalized, and vulnerable—to adapt, persist, and recover in the event of natural or manmade disruptive events.
Aerial photo of San Diego.
San Diego buildings captured in “Urban Legos.” Photo by Karon Elliott Edleson

Solving Market Adoption for Emerging Efficiency Technologies: Students will seek to increase the accessibility, purchase, installation, and use of energy efficiency technologies in buildings (residential, commercial, new, or existing). This will lead to reductions in energy use and carbon emissions and fewer inequalities in obtaining new technologies for identified stakeholder groups.
Woman looking at light bulbs.

This year’s student team challenge submissions are due Nov. 12, 2021. Finalists will present solutions during the final event in January 2022 and compete for a paid summer 2022 internship at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, or the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Flourishing in the Fourth Year of Competition
Since the 2018 pilot, JUMP into STEM has grown significantly. During the 2020–2021 academic year, 144 students from 29 different academic institutions participated to submit 48 innovative solutions to real-world energy problems. Although it is still a relatively new program, JUMP into STEM has also been successful in increasing energy efficiency equity and technological diversity by increasing contributions from underrepresented groups and different majors.

The inspiring young building science professionals who have won internships with the NREL Building Technologies and Science Center team have supported impactful research, explored their passions, and contributed new perspectives.

The interns have helped develop modeling tools, researched thermal energy storage through the use of phase change materials, explored energy efficiency strategies for commercial warehouses and distribution centers, studied how homes and buildings can adapt to mitigate thawing ice-rich permafrost systems, and more. Learn more about the most recent class of NREL JUMP into STEM interns.

Want To Get Involved?
JUMP into STEM is seeking sponsors who will work closely with NREL and other stakeholders to make the competition a success.

Sponsorship funds are crucial to allow for the inclusion of more student teams in the final competition, as well as expansion of the reception, activities, and other benefits for final event attendees and challenge winners. To learn more about the benefits and rewards of becoming a JUMP into STEM sponsor, contact Kim Trenbath.