Energy Savings and Awareness Week: Trumbull senior named as scholarship finalist for community project

For a high school senior, $14,000 is a lot of money.

That should be more than enough motivation for Trumbull High School senior Anuj Sisodiya to win the 2015-16 Barton L. Weller Scholarship next spring.

However, Anuj’s inspiration goes beyond just cash — his project “Energy Savings and Awareness Week” aims to rid the town of excessive energy consumption, and is tailored directly toward the THS student’s lifelong passion for environmental protection.

“I was in a program in the fifth grade where I collected plastic bags that were brought to the recycling center,” said Anuj, who plans to launch a weeklong community-involved energy week from Sunday, Feb. 7, through Saturday, Feb. 13.

“I collected 4,000 bags, and that was a lot more than I was expecting,” he recalled. “I was surprised at how willing people were to help the environment, and I’ve been doing my part ever since.”

Anuj said he applied for the scholarship in October and heard back toward the end of the month that his proposal had been selected. As part of being a finalist, he received a $200 check on Nov. 4 that will help fund the project.

“I was pretty surprised when I got the letter in the mail — the application was posted on our bulletin board at school, so I knew there were going to be a good amount of people applying and that there was going to be a lot competition,” the senior said. “I thought it would be difficult, so I was shocked when I was selected.”

In addition to the plastic bags project seven years ago, Anuj has helped distribute automatic light timers during the holidays as part of an energy-savings campaign for Trumbull residents.

“We got that money through a grant, and the light timers helped holiday light decorations turn off automatically after four hours,” he said.

Week outline

Now, instead of turning off Christmas tree lights, the high school student is asking Trumbullites to go in the dark completely — only for one hour, at the end of the weeklong campaign.

“During Showdown at Sundown Saturday, everyone in town will participate by turning off their lights for an hour,” he explained. “That’ll mark the end of the week.”

Preceding it will be an array of other alliteration: Selfie Sunday, Monitor Monday, Technology Tuesday, Work Wednesday, Turn-off Thursday, and Fix-it Friday.

The different days will encourage residents to engage with energy-saving techniques and be more mindful of how they use their power — at home and at work.

“Selfie Sunday is all about taking photos of you doing something that’s helping the environment — that’ll kick-start everything,” he said. “Monday, I’d like for participants to monitor their energy bills and their meters.”

As the week progresses, there will be more encouragement toward energy reduction — and education about different techniques for making that possible.

“Turn-off Thursday is basically just turning off all non-essential electronics that don’t need to be plugged in or charged,” Anuj said. “That’s a concept a lot of people forget, but it can really be applied easily.”

A day later, he’s asking residents to check for leaks or anything that may cause excessive use — and fix those malfunctions.

Energy crisis

In his two-page written proposal to the foundation, Anuj created a color wheel image to accompany the rest of his plan, which also includes tracking how much money is saved in town over the week.

For that part of the project, he will work with the United Illuminating Co., based in Orange.

In addition to the written part of the application, he needed to submitted a letter of recommendation, which he got from UI, and include any other supplemental documents.

“The energy crisis is a serious global issue,” he wrote. “It’s unthinkable what life would look like without energy resources.

“Old or young, student or teacher, businessman or serviceman, we all use energy from morning to evening in some shape or form,” he added. “We spend about $150 billion in wasted energy every year. Many of us waste energy by keeping appliances on longer than necessary and failing to pay attention to energy-saving recommendations.”

Anuj, who serves as secretary of the high school’s debate team, explained in his proposal that the issues of energy wastage and the lack of energy-saving awareness have been talked about and discussed many times.

“Every year we read about these issues, celebrate Earth Day, organize Earth Hour, and then forget about the impact of these events,” he wrote. “We are part of a community and a much bigger nation that is responsible for this energy crisis, but we have done very little to change our individual behaviors or make others aware about the improvements we can make to save energy.”

Promotion time

A fan of alliteration and acronyms, Anuj labeled the weeklong endeavor E-SAW.

That name should make the project more marketable going forward, but there is still the hurdle of asking residents to conserve energy during the coldest month of the year — and quite possibly the coldest week of that month.

“Of course, doing it in February will be a challenge, but I don’t think it should affect the results,” said the former Tashua Elementary School and Madison Middle School student. “If anything, when people make the switch to use less energy that week, then we’ll see even more of an impact than if we did it later in the year.”

In case he needs additional help bringing awareness to his own awareness-minded project, Anuj does have that $200 start-up check that he will use on social media and flyers.

One of the other parts of his project is creating a website where residents can sign in, one per household, and upload any pictures or documents that prove their participating in the week.

“That’ll be a way for me to track how everyone’s doing,” he said.

While environmental protection and energy conservation are some of his passions, the young learner also likes building and designing websites — something that should make his life easier as he tries to create a platform that could store a whole town’s worth of energy data.

“I’m passionate about technology,” said Anuj, who’s also a member of the school’s business club and plans to major in finance next fall.

“Technology plays an important role in creating a more sustainable environment, and it also will help me get people to know more about what’s going on,” he added. “In order for this to work, the community needs to participate — kids of all ages, their parents, and their parents’ parents.”

Scholarship background

Established in 1977 by the founder of Vitramon Inc. in Monroe, the scholarship’s purpose is to encourage academic excellence in a substantial independent research or study project.

Anuj, who was named Trumbull’s finalist to compete for the five-figure grand prize, will go up against four other selected seniors from Joel Barlow High School in Redding, Masuk High School in Monroe, Newtown High School, and Shelton High School.

Entrants were required to submit proposals for projects in any field of study in which they have an interest, and a total of 29 proposals were received.

Anuj, son of Mahesh and Anju Sisodiya, submitted his project with the objective of creating awareness about energy savings and environmental protection, and using social media, door-to-door campaigns and community events to create this awareness and measure the effectiveness of these tools.

The five finalists were selected on the basis of originality, format of the proposal, project potential, and care with which the proposal and its planned implementation has been thought through.

Prior to the awards dinner on April 27 at Fairfield University, the scholarship recipient will be announced.

At the dinner, the $14,000 scholarship will be presented to the student whose project is judged to be the best.

The scholarship will be paid directly to the college or university for deposit into the student’s account. The scholarship will be awarded without regard to the student’s existing financial status.