NORTHBROOK, Ill. and WASHINGTON, D.C., Dec. 10, 2015 — Today’s most significant environmental concerns, as daunting as they seem, also are opening unprecedented opportunities to help young students build the skills in science and engineering that can have a direct impact in their communities. Citing the success of recent efforts to motivate students with significant opportunities, UL, a global safety science leader, and the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), a leader in environmental education, today announced the second annual UL Innovative Education Award competition for 2016. The competition’s inaugural year saw major awards invested in five unique programs across North America hitting at the heart of STEM (science, engineering, technology and math) learning through projects involving current environmental problems (E-STEM).

The program will invest $250,000 (USD) in environmental and STEM education, sustainable communities and youth empowerment. “Last year’s award winners set very impressive benchmarks in addressing some of today’s most urgent environmental concerns with innovative ideas that encourage social responsibility and engage people of all different backgrounds in their communities,” says Barbara Guthrie, chief public safety officer, UL.

Last year’s grand prize winner was DiscoverE’s Future City (http://futurecity.org/) which will be holding a national competition for teams in middle schools to research and design virtual reality scale models of cities, using SimCity software that emphasize environmental sustainability and deal with issues such as clean energy and water, solid waste management, storm water runoff and urban agriculture.

Similarly, NAAEE’s National Project for Excellence in Environmental Education highlights the best practices of nonprofit organizations across the U.S. and Canada that are leading the way to inspire a passion for STEM education in young people through a focus on the environment. “Hands-on education about the environment is a powerful tool, as evidenced in last year’s outstanding entries. And, we are thrilled to be partners with UL, one of the most trusted and respected exemplars of committing to and responding to the latest in scientific thinking and progress,” says Christiane Maertens, NAAEE’s deputy director.