Bright idea wins Caring contest

Posted: Monday, April 23, 2007

The 17th annual Caring for the Kenai contest wrapped up last week and it was Molly Watkins, a Kenai Central High School sophomore in Rick Frederic’s science class, who walked away with first-place honors and $1,500 for her “bright idea” of changing light bulbs to change the world.

“My project was called ‘Make a Switch, Make a Difference’ and it focused on getting people to replace incandescent light bulbs with compact florescent light bulbs,” Watkins said.

Rather than relying on electricity running through a tiny thread of tungsten as with an incandescent bulb, compact florescent light bulbs utilize electrical energy to excite gas within the bulbs that in turn emits light. This means a lot less energy is used, which can equate to numerous types of savings, according to Watkins.

“If we use less electricity, we don’t have to produce as much, so we don’t have as many negative effects to the environment from this production, such as carbon dioxide -- a greenhouse gas -- which speeds up global warming,” she said.

Watkins said that if everyone on the Kenai Peninsula changed a single incandescent bulb to a compact florescent light, roughly 23,382,000 pounds of carbon dioxide could be prevented from entering Earth’s atmosphere over the lifetime of the bulbs.

“In addition to the benefits to the environment, they also benefit your wallet because less electricity -- 75 percent less -- is needed to light them,” she said.

Watkins said she is excited that she won the contest because of how many months of research and hard work she devoted to it, but also because now she can continue to promote the use of compact florescent lights.

“I teamed up with HEA. They donated 250 compact florescent light bulbs that I distributed at the Home Show along with my brochures about the benefits of using them. I’m hoping to have a booth at the Kenai River Festival and other community events to continue distributing bulbs and brochures,” she said.

Watkins said her goal is to get as many people on the peninsula as possible to make the switch to this eco-friendly technology.

“People in other states are already using them. It’s time Alaska jumped on, too,” she said.

For more information on compact florescent lights, visit Watkins’ Web site,

The second-place winner in this year’s Caring for the Kenai was the team of Tristin Rutherford and Stacey Edgmon from Phil Morin’s class in Nikiski. They won $1,000 for a program they created titled Wildlife, Avalanche, Volcano and Earthquake Safety, or WAVES for short.

In third place was the team of Jasmine Klauder and Deandra Latz of KCHS, who won $800; fourth place was Brooke Jasky-Zuber of Skyview High School, who claimed $600; in fifth was Maya Johnson of KCHS, who got $450; and in sixth place was the team of Tyler Bethune and Alex Ross from Niksiki High School, who netted $300.

In addition to the $6,000 in cash awards for the finalists this year, $20,000 was awarded to the science departments of participating schools, which including Kenai, Skyview, Soldotna, Nikiski, Ninilchik and Homer High Schools. Each school will receive $750 for participating, with the remaining $20,000 allocated in proportion to how each school’s students placed in the final standings.

There also were another six finalists who received $150 for their oral presentations, and more than 40 semifinalist entries that received special recognition awards from community sponsors.

For more information, visit the event’s Web site at

Joseph Robertia can be reached at

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