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EPMS Students Win $25,000 For Environmental Action

A team of six highly motivated students from Estes Park Middle School, aptly named the Shuttle Bugs, are celebrating their contribution to the Earth. Not only have they done their part to protect the planet, they’ve also emerged as one of only eight first place teams nationwide that have each won $15,000 in the Lexus Eco Challenge, an educational program and contest that inspires and empowers middle and high school students to learn about the environment and take action to improve it.

Earlier this school year, the team was awarded $10,000 for its entry in the Air–Climate Challenge, and now as a First Place winner in the Final Challenge, the Shuttle Bugs will receive another grant for $15,000, which will be shared by the school ($3,000), the teacher advisor ($2,000) and scholarships for the students ($10,000).

This year’s fourth annual Lexus Eco Challenge (, created by Lexus and Scholastic, had more than 500 registered teams representing more than 4,000 middle and high school students nationwide. From the 32 Final Challenge participating teams, Lexus and Scholastic have chosen two $30,000 Grand Prize-winning teams and eight $15,000 First Place teams. In all, $500,000 in grants and scholarships have been awarded throughout the seven-month-long environmental education program and contest.

“With the terrific entries we saw from these students, it’s very clear that the Lexus Eco Challenge was more than just a science project for them…they were fueled by passion,” said Mark Templin, Lexus group vice president and general manager. “Not only have they improved the environment, they’ve demonstrated that they can change the world. We couldn’t be more proud of all the winning participants.”

The Shuttle Bugs focused their Final Challenge efforts on encouraging visitors from regional communities to decrease their carbon footprint when visiting Estes Park by using the town’s shuttle buses during the summer months. Using the middle school’s vacant parking lot during the summer as part of the town’s shuttle network will keep almost 200 cars per day from driving into town. These efforts will decrease traffic in town and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emissions released into the atmosphere by 278,000 pounds over the summer.

Jennifer Taylor, the Shuttle Bugs sixth grade science teacher-advisor, said, “The Lexus Eco Challenge gave my students a unique opportunity to build confidence in what they believe in and proof that they can make a difference in their world. We have a group of sixth graders who are now seriously thinking about going to college. In fact, one student is dreaming of going to Stanford.”

Jock Bartley of Firefall supported the Shuttle Bugs project by linking it to his Walk More Softly environmental campaign. The community is invited to Firefall’s performance on May 7 at Marys Lake Lodge when the Shuttle Bugs will be recognized for their successful Lexus Eco Challenge win.

The Lexus Eco Challenge will enter its fifth year in fall 2011. For more information, visit to view all the winning entries and to learn how they can take part in next year’s program.

© 2014 Estes Park News, Inc

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