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Chicago Nonprofit Wins $100K UL Innovative Education Award Grand Prize

August 1, 2017

NORTHBROOK, IL and WASHINGTON, D.C., Aug. 01, 2017 — UL and NAAEE (North American Association for Environmental Education) awarded five 2017 ULIEA winners with a combined $250,000 (USD) in recognition grants for furthering environmental education via STEM principles (E-STEM).

The Chicago Botanic Garden’s Science Career Continuum took the $100,000 grand prize for their work fostering the next generation of environmental and conservation scientists. By engaging Chicago public middle and high schoolers in a summer science immersion program, Science Career Continuum paves the way to studying science in college. Participating students who go on to receive undergraduate degrees can apply for professional research initiative opportunities and can apply for internships.  Students can also apply to Northwestern University, as the Garden partners with the institution to offer a Master’s and Doctorate degree in Plant Biology and Conservation.

Four additional nonprofit programs won recognition grants totaling $150,000.

Hurricane Island invites local students to work with research scientists and experts to learn about ecology, marine science and citizen science initiatives. It’s completely remote and relies on environmentally sensitive technology to operate and supplement education initiatives and program demonstrations.

Middle school students in the Design Squad Global community choose a challenge or activity and then partner with another group of students in another part of the world. Together, they collaborate with their engineering ideas and address global challenges.

Chicago Eco House is an after-school program for students living in the South Side neighborhood of Englewood. The center helps youth revitalize the community and think sustainably through urban agriculture, green building, green energy, 3D printing, and carpentry projects.

Re Energy engages middle and high school students in hands-on energy science activities like building wind turbines and hydroelectric generators. The curriculum and website help students grasp applied science techniques to create a more sustainable future.

Watch as organizers surprise winners HERE.

“All of our 2017 winners understand what’s at stake,” says Cara Gizzi, UL’s Vice President of Public Safety Education and Outreach. “They’re not just thinking about short-term goals. They are actively educating and preparing today’s youth — tomorrow’s leaders — to solve the problems of our future world. It’s exciting to see students across North America receiving the tools to identify and address environmental problems with creative, STEM-based and net-positive solutions. We are so inspired and hopeful for the future.”

All five winning organizations, will meet at UL’s campus in Northbrook, Ill. on Aug. 9-11 for the third ULIEA Leadership Summit share best practices and celebrate their collective success in pushing E-STEM forward.

“While the award creators expected to find leaders in E-STEM, they were thrilled to find organizations also profoundly impacting social issues,” says Christiane Maertens, NAAEE’s Deputy Director. “These organizations are going beyond E-STEM. They’re digging deep into their communities and the world-at-large to find youth needing attention, education and direction. Many of our winners, past and present, support under-served urban, religious, indigenous, people of color, elderly and women-led populations — this is a huge goal of NAAEE. They’re giving youth a broader and more complex understanding of how environmental issues, critical thinking and STEM can meet the diverse needs of their community and we couldn’t be more proud.”

UL developed the ULIEA program in collaboration with the North American Association for Environmental Education in 2015. The program is open to nonprofit organizations in the U.S. and Canada who engage K-12 students in STEM and environmental education. Ultimately, UL and NAAEE aim to support organizations inspiring and preparing future engineers, conservationists, researchers, scientists, and problem solvers.

Visit for more information.

About UL
UL fosters safe living and working conditions for people everywhere through the application of science to solve safety, security and sustainability challenges.  The UL Mark engenders trust enabling the safe adoption of innovative new products and technologies. Everyone at UL shares a passion to make the world a safer place. We test, inspect, audit, certify, validate, verify, advise and train and we support these efforts with software solutions for safety and sustainability. To learn more about us, visit

The North American Association for Environmental Education is a pioneering membership organization dedicated to accelerating environmental literacy through education. NAAEE supports a network of more than 16,000 educators, researchers, and organizational members working in environmental education across more than 30 countries through direct membership and 54 regional affiliate organizations. NAAEE provides resources for educators, professionals, volunteers and researchers via sponsored community networks, publications and employment development opportunities. For more information, visit