Apparently, Carter County grows scientists.
A team of students from five schools in the county is the national champion in a competition aimed at getting students and their families to save energy.
The win was no surprise to Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, given the state's strong science background.
"We spawn some of the best scientists in Montana," he said.
The winning students hail from Alzada Elementary School, Carter County High School, Ekalaka Elementary School, Hammond School and Hawks Home School.
The team members beat out roughly 120,000 other students to win and did it by reducing their home energy use by 3.4 percent, working with local utility companies and the community and keeping students engaged throughout the process.
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"Our students were very enthusiastic about this program," said Marlene Waterland, an official with Southeast Electric Cooperative in Carter County.
The five schools won $15,000, which they will share, as both a regional winner and as the national champion of the America's Home Energy Education Challenge.
The idea behind the challenge "was to get students involved in reducing energy waste in their homes," said Secretary of Energy Steven Chu.
Chu, along with Schweitzer, Waterland and Dr. Gerald Wheeler, the interim executive director of the National Science Teachers Association, made the announcement during a conference call Wednesday.
"The Montana team was engaged, enthusiastic and creative," Chu said.
The entries were judged by a panel of science teachers from the National Science Teachers Association and graded using a complex set of criteria that weighed the amount of energy saved, level of community involvement and the creativity of the solutions.
"This was a very complex challenge," Waterland said. "It was hard."
Over the course of five months last fall and winter, students created an action plan that encouraged families and the community to switch off lights, unplug appliances, and use compact fluorescent light bulbs.
The plan was engaging and many in the community used it successfully to reduce energy.
"It's just good business to use less energy," Schweitzer said.
This was the program's first year. Chu hopes to run it again next year and turn it into a tradition.