DECA finalist saves NLHS $47,000 per year
By Scott Bellile
Ellie Madsen accepted her high school diploma at graduation three weeks ago knowing she made a difference — a $47,000-a-year difference — at her alma mater.
Madsen, 18, the daughter of Michael and Margie Madsen, collaborated with the New London School District to switch out New London High School’s fluorescent lighting for energy-efficient LED lighting this spring.
The upgrade cost about $138,000 for contractors to install 2,178 electrical fixtures everywhere in NLHS except the auditorium, greenhouse, freezer and cooler.
The annual energy savings will be $47,000 along with another $8,800 per year saved in maintenance costs.
The investment’s payback will be three years, according to Joe Marquardt, the district’s business services director. Cost savings thereafter will be applied to future energy-efficiency projects throughout the school district.
For her research and planning, Madsen was honored as a top 10 finalist in the Creative Marketing event at the DECA International Career Development Conference, held in Atlanta April 21-24.
“She did amazing work on her project and finished in outstanding fashion at the [inter]national conference,” NLHS DECA adviser and business teacher Melissa Porath said.
During her senior year, Madsen retook Porath’s project-based School of Enterprise Marketing class because she wanted to complete an assignment that felt closer to her post-secondary goals than the SEM project she did as a junior.
Madsen aspires to earn an environmental engineering degree from Brown University, where she will study this fall, but through the open curriculum program, she also wants to explore business, public policy, political science, mathematics and computer science.
Madsen asked Porath for a project that combined two of her interests, the environment and business. Porath connected her with Marquardt. He informed Madsen the district wanted to upgrade to LED lights at NLHS – the largest and most energy-consuming school in New London – but he didn’t receive satisfactory options from four different companies he talked with.
The opportunity to help appealed to Madsen. She started researching information such as lumens temperature and pros and cons of implementation last fall, presenting her data to Marquardt regularly.
Her research included surveying teachers and students about their feelings toward the existing fluorescent light fixtures. Madsen said she didn’t know what to expect for responses because she wasn’t sure people paid attention to the lights above their heads. It turns out they did.
“I actually got a lot of feedback saying [the fluorescent lights] caused headaches and they were too bright,” Madsen said. “And that was surprising, but it reaffirmed the whole purpose of my project.”
When the proposal appeared before the New London School Board for approval on Feb. 26, everybody was on board.
During that meeting held in the NLHS library, board member Virginia Schlais commented that the constant humming of the metal-halide lamps in the room was “making my tinnitus go crazy.” She believed students’ comprehension and academic performance would improve with a better lighting system.
Board member John Heideman said based on the thee-year payback, doing the upgrade is “kind of a no-brainer.”
As BNH Lighting in Hortonville was getting started on the LED installations, Madsen presented her project at the DECA 2018 State Career Development Conference in Lake Geneva in early March. She entered DECA’s Creative Marketing category, focusing on how she marketed the LED proposal to the school board and its facilities committee.
“I got a perfect score on my presentation, which I was really happy about, and I took second place overall at state, so then I qualified for nationals,” Madsen said.
In Atlanta, Madsen did not expect to get too far because of the strong competition she faced, but she was proud to ultimately finish in the top 10 out of 200 to 250 teams.
What mattered most to her, however, was helping to improve her school, she said.
The lights were installed late in the school year. When visitors come to NLHS, they can see the smaller square panels on the ceiling are the LED lights. The panels used to be rectangular. The lights also emit a different hue and are less bright, Madsen said.
New London well represented at DECA internationals
Ellie Madsen was not the only New London High School student to enjoy success at the DECA International Career Development Conference in April. The following students also participated in Atlanta:
• Addy Graber, Parker Fermanich and Josie Tuchscherer competed in the School Based Enterprise event to present the Percy’s Pro Shop school store.
• Erika Dorow and Jessica Gregory competed in the Entrepreneurship Promotion event to showcase the BEST Creations keychain business.
• Jack Noffke competed in the Accounting event. He completed a 100-question test and presented two role-plays related to accounting business situations.