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National Geothermal Student Competition

Summary of competition

The Department of Energy 2014 Student Competition seeks students interested in building and showcasing scientific research, communication and leadership skills to convey the role of geothermal energy as an important contributor to the nation’s clean energy future. This year’s event, GeoEnergy is Beautiful 2014, focuses on a non-technical barrier to geothermal development: public communications. Energy production can be a complex topic to explain to a broad public audience, and describing energy that comes from a subsurface environment—difficult to visualize for many—amplifies the challenge of explaining geothermal energy, how it works, and how it can benefit consumers. 

The GSC therefore invites student to develop cutting-edge geothermal communications tools that marry accurate, technical information with a graphical visualization. These visualizations, often referred to as infographics, are put to use in various media outlets by the federal government, private companies, institutions and individuals to convey ideas and messages.  Infographics provide the opportunity to distill large quantities of data and information to facilitate insight, comprehend relationships and patterns, and understand complex messages with a minimum of words.  

Participating teams will be asked to develop two primary deliverables, for an educated but non-technical public audience in mind:

Students are encouraged to form small partnerships or teams of no more than 2-3 people capable of leveraging each member’s academic background, creativity, communication skills and competitive spirit toward creating. 

The GSC will occur in two rounds:

  • In Round 1, students will be asked to submit only their communications and outreach strategy and a mock-up of their infographic, with a preliminary list of supporting data sources, in an application packet.  Up to five of the most impressive applications will be selected through a screening process described in the evaluation section of this document. 
  • In Round 2, the five selected teams, their sponsor, and their schools will be notified and immediately assigned the task of developing a full packet containing their final infographic and accompanying data sources and final communications and outreach strategy. Each team will receive a total award of $2,500, where $2,000 is expected to be used as planning funds (stipend) and $500 is to be used to implement a component of their outreach strategy.
  • The five teams will also be invited to the Geothermal Resources Council meeting in Portland, OR (Sept. 28 through Oct. 1, 2014) to meet geothermal stakeholders present their infographic. At this time, the top three teams and winner will be announced.

Team requirements

Student teams should include:

  • No more than three members
  • Open to undergraduates, graduate students, and/or high school seniors
  • One or more academic institutions
  • A team sponsor (can be a post-doc, teaching fellow, professor, and/or faculty member, or anyone employed as a science communicator, data journalist or information designer)
  • A team leader (if more than one member; serves as the group’s point of contact)
  • [Optional] Additional sponsor(s) from non-academic collaborating organizations (e.g., industry, state government)

Round 1: Applications due April 25, 2014

As part of the Round 1 applications, student teams are required to submit:

  • Communications and Outreach Strategy (C&O Strategy) not to exceed 10 pages (including tables, charts, graphics, and references) that describes their overall approach to the project. 
    • An Executive Summary (not to exceed one page) that provides a summary of the team (including the institution, members of the team and their academic disciplines, the team lead if applicable, and sponsor, strengths, and interests); an overview of the planned content, communication approach, and goal
    • Communications Strategy, which should include:
      • Current topics and issues in geothermal energy and/or earth science, science policy, education and communication to contextualize the mission of the infographic and frame the team’s communication strategy
      • An explanation of the submitted infographic that describes the topic or theme explored by the team and the mission of the infographic: what message it seeks to convey and how it will accomplish the communication and education goals of the team
    • Outreach Strategy, which should include:
      • A plan to disseminate the infographic to the public for maximum impact
      • High-impact publications, media outlets and the design of a robust online presence (e.g. website, social media) to promote the infographic and geothermal energy as a whole
      • Educational materials and background reading for science classes, and a possible topic for a future geothermal student competition
  • An infographic mock-up, including a preliminary list of publicly available data sources that demonstrate the accuracy and feasibility of the information conveyed by the infographic.
  • A budget plan that describes how the $2,500 would be used, $500 of which would be used to implement a component of the outreach strategy

C&O Strategy Evaluation (Round 1):

Each submission will be reviewed by an interdisciplinary panel drawn from the DOE. Each submission will be rated on a scale of 1 to 5 for:

  • Creativity and aesthetics of proposed data visualization
  • Clarity and depth of communications approach and methodology
  • Feasibility of translation of original and/or varied data sets into relevant visual information
  • Quality and relevance of proposed messaging (e.g., value in increasing public interest or assisting decision makers)
  • Clarity and feasibility of outreach plan for dissemination.

Round 1 application deadline: Semi-finalists are required to electronically submit their final deliverables to the program manager, Desmond Stubbs by 11:59 EST on April 25, 2014.



Round 2: Deliverables due TBD (open only to semi-finalist teams)

As part of Round 2, semi-finalist student teams are required to submit the following deliverables. In addition, teams are expected to participate in biweekly review meetings and submit regular reports documenting their progress.

  • Final Communication and Outreach Strategies (should not exceed 15 pages and should be based solely on strategies defined in the application submitted). The plan should include the following:
    • Executive Summary
    • Provide context for the infographic and strategy:
      • Define current issues in science, education, energy and geothermal energy
      • Discuss the importance and relevance of infographics in conveying ideas and information
    • Presentation and Analysis of Communications and Outreach Strategy
      • Communications and Outreach Strategy
      • Relationship between the strategy, current issues, and the infographic
    • Analysis of Infographic
      • Describe the message conveyed by the infographic
      • Describe how the message conveyed by the infographic complements current issues in science, education, energy and geothermal energy
      • Identify what publicly available data were used, and how the infographic distills this data into a message
      • Discuss how well the infographic conveys its message, relative to other media and teaching materials
  • Infographic file (PDF and TIFF formats, in poster-size dimensions)
  • Data appendix (spreadsheet format)
    • Data used in infographic
    • Source and origination
    • Collection methods
    • Assumptions

Infographic and C&O Strategy Evaluation (Round 2):

Each submission will be reviewed by an interdisciplinary panel drawn from the public and private sector. 

  • Creativity and aesthetics of data visualization
  • Clarity and depth of communications approach and methodology
  • Successful translation of original and/or varied data sets into relevant visual information
  • Quality and relevance of messaging conveyed (e.g., value in increasing public interest or assisting decision makers)
  • Clarity and feasibility of outreach plan for dissemination.

Final deliverable submission deadline: Semi-finalists are required to electronically submit their final deliverables to the program manager, Desmond Stubbs) by TBD.



Competition awards

  • Final five teams will receive travel, lodging, meals & incidental expenses, and registration costs paid to attend the Geothermal Resources Council meeting in Portland OR,where they will be allowed to present their infographics to conference attendees in a poster session
  • Prior to the conference the packets will be reviewed by an interdisciplinary panel drawn from the public and private sector, and the first, second and third place winners will be determined and announced
  • The Department of Energy will recognize first, second and third place winners at the conference.
  • The winning team will receive a one-time geothermal scholarship for their college, university, or high school.

Key competition dates

  • Feb. 21: Application opens
  • March 25: Kick-off call with prospective student teams
  • April 25: Round 1 deliverables due, including project plan, communications and education strategy and infographic mock-up
  • TBD: Five finalists are notified and invited to submit full application packages
  • TBD: Final packets due
  • TBD: First, second and third place teams are notified
  • Sept. 28 - Oct. 1 GRC Conference: Five finalists attend the GRC conference in Portland and winners are announced. Additionally, GRC attendees will have the opportunity to vote for a “People’s Choice Award,” the winner of which will be announced at GRC’s conclusion. 

Media Release Form: All team members will need to sign a photo release form

  • Apply now for the 2014 National Geothermal Student Competition