Leave it to young people to develop solutions to common ecological, environmental and technological problems found in schools across Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. Now, these students will be given deserved recognition for their ideas, some of which have already been implemented in area schools.

This is the second year of awards for student authors of environmental business plans, hosted by the Multicultural Education for Resources Issues Threatening Oceans Foundation, also known as MERITO, as part of the nine-month-long Energy Efficiency to Mitigate Climate Change and Ocean Acidification program, EECCOA for short.

Students representing eight schools from elementary to high school (Ventura’s Buena High School, De Anza Middle School and E.P. Foster Elementary; Oxnard’s Haydock Middle School; Fillmore High School; and Santa Barbara County’s Ernest Righetti High School, Hollister Elementary and Santa Barbara Middle School) will present projects on Friday, June 2, at the Museum of Ventura County, though it is not open to the public. Fifty students will be awarded prizes for their concepts, which range from energy efficiency to water conservation and waste reduction project proposals for their school campuses.

The students’ projects will be judged by a panel of industry experts and scientists.

Rocío Lozano-Knowlton, founder and executive director of the MERITO Foundation, says that the awards are a way to motivate youth to address issues and to become more knowledgeable.

“We wanted to find ways how to motivate youth to be environmental entrepreneurs and integrate the different disciplines of earth science,” said Lozano-Knowlton, adding that teachers, too, benefit from the program. “At this age, [students] are overwhelmed with so much bad news in our environment; we offer a sense of hope in teenagers.”

Some of the winning projects from the first year’s awards have already been adopted by their respective schools. One project proposed by a Ventura High School student tested thermostats in classrooms and discovered that the school could save $12,000 annually by fixing faulty devices, which in turn could be used to pay for the installation solar power panels. Fillmore High School students developed a lesson plan for the fourth grade on ocean acidification. The students presented the lesson plan themselves, and the plan has since been adopted into the curriculum.

Other projects that seem simple but have a big impact include removing water bottles from schools and replacing them with reusable bottles with a custom logo, and giving students the choice not to take juice boxes eat lunchtime, thereby reducing waste.

Nichia Huxtable, who teaches grades nine through 12, has eight groups of students from her Fillmore High School freshman biology course attending the awards ceremony. Huxtable says that all of her students are required to work on a project or take the final exam. She says that her students prefer working on the projects.

This year, Huxtable says, a group of students created a lesson plan for first-grade students on ocean acidification, and another analyzed the contents of trashcans in the school. Another simply proposed turning the lights off in classrooms with windows on sunny days to conserve energy.

“For all the groups it was extremely eye opening. Just the way they’re talking about energy efficiency and waste reduction is at a much more mature level now, much more sophisticated when they’re talking about it,” said Huxtable. “I’ll be doing this every year.”

Lozano-Knowlton says that the award ceremony isn’t simply for the students, however, and that she hopes school administrators will attend to see what their students are doing, and perhaps to work with the students to adapt these eco-friendly measures.

“We want the school district administrators and school board members to come to this award ceremony to see what the students are creating,” said Lozano-Knowlton.

Meanwhile, in Port Hueneme, the Port of Hueneme hosted its fourth Maritime Advanced Systems and Technology Expo, which 75 students from Oxnard’s Frank Middle School’s Robert J. Frank Academy of Marine Sciences and Engineering, Oxnard High School’s Aviation Science Academy and Pacifica High School’s CODE Academy attended to catch a glimpse of the latest technologies.

Students in attendance were given an opportunity to see what local careers are available to them, should they pursue careers in the tech field.

“We hope to open their eyes to dream of new challenges, innovations and to know that they could have a tremendous impact on the industry they choose to be in — whether it’s maritime, engineering or technology, this event is here to highlight the different opportunities that exist,” said Port of Hueneme Commissioner Mary Anne Rooney to the students in attendance.