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Stylized Text:Critter Comfort Cottage Rules.

The Critter Comfort Cottage (C3) competition is a real-world, engineering and communications challenge for elementary (4 - 6 grades), middle (7 & 8 grades) and high school students (9-12 grades), which showcases energy efficient building design and construction. 

The purpose of this Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) competition is to utilize energy-efficient and green building design and construction techniques to create the most cost-effective, comfortable “home” for a critter. The engineering, design and construction team must also create a communication and marketing component which effectively describes the features and benefits of their Comfort Cottage for the critter they have selected. A critter in this context is considered to be any living creature, such as a mammal, bird, fish, insect, arachnid, amphibian or reptile.

The habitat design submitted for judging must be one created and built for this year's event.  If reusing components from a previous year, the new design must be at least 50% different from entries submitted in a previous year.   

Engineering, Design and Construction

Under the supervision of a teacher or mentor, each team of two to six (2 – 6) students is responsible for designing and building a pet home (“cottage”) that strives to provide maximum comfort for the critter that occupies the built space, while being as energy and resource efficient (“green”) as possible. Renewable energy technologies that enhance the comfort or quality of life for the critter are also allowed.

Design and Construction:

  1. Teams must build full-sized and fully-realized designs that can be occupied by the critter or critters, for which it was designed.  
  2. Research on the habits and needs of the critter that will occupy the space must be taken into consideration in the design of the structure. This research is to be documented in the Habitat Design Form and reflected in the marketing component of the competition.
  3. A representation or facsimile of the selected critter or critters is to be displayed along with the pet home at the EnergyWhiz event; no live critters will be permitted. Any team that brings a live animal will be disqualified.
  4. All teams must be able to discuss their product with the judges and explain the energy efficient and green design and construction components. Refer to the Judging Criteria for what areas will need to be covered.
  5. In the event that a team is unable to transport their design to the competition, the team must adequately convey to the judges the overall design features, product essence and incorporation of energy efficiency and/or green technologies into the structure. This can be done through any number of medium such as documents, photos, videos, simulations, schematics, charts, blueprints, drawings, etc. Teams should have enough supporting materials to adequately represent their design and student construction. 
  6. The constructed “cottage” may not have sharp points or edges that could injure the selected critter or someone who touches it.
  7. All teams must complete the Habitat Design Form (Firefox users, download to edit); including a photo of the habitat, at least 10 days prior to the competition. Please email the form and photo to Failure to submit a design form will result in a 10 point deduction from the team's Design Judging score.

Projects that are deemed unsafe will be disqualified.

Communications and Marketing

Each team is to create a marketing piece to accompany their design. The purpose of this is to highlight the energy efficient design, use of reusable or recycled resources and any green aspects of the structure. These can be in any format that the team chooses.  The marketing piece should be geared toward the general public. The examples below are not meant to be exclusive; students are encouraged to be creative.  Some marketing examples include:

  • Brochure/flyer/handouts
  • Video clip/television commercial
  • Poster
  • Web page

Teams will also be judged on how well the design is marketed to the judging team. This will include team member knowledge, verbal presentation to the judges, and salesmanship. Teams are also encouraged to interact with the public.

Competition Day

Display spaces will be outdoors. Teams are encouraged to bring umbrellas or canopies for shade. Each team will have a ‘booth’ space ten feet wide (with a 6' table if desired), in which to showcase their design, marketing materials or anything else they choose. If water, 120 volt AC power, or additional space is needed for the display, prior notice must be given.

Individual students may not participate in more than (2) EnergyWhiz competitions as team members.

The teams will be judged on their designs, as well as creativity and presentation. Judges will be looking for knowledge of energy efficient design, green construction techniques and use of alternative energy sources. In addition, the team should have an understanding of their chosen critter’s optimum living conditions and what constitutes its well-being.

Judging Criteria

  • Design Decisions--How well does the team understand energy efficient/green building design? How well thought out are their design decisions? Was careful attention paid to parts selection and integration? Was proper attention paid to safety issues? How well does the team understand the habitat needs of their chosen critter?
  • Energy Savings--How much energy has been saved? How was this calculated? What was the project cost or cost savings?
  • Green Building Technology--Were recycled and/or green materials used? How well is energy efficiency, green building practices and renewable energy represented in the project, marketing and presentation?
  • Construction Technique--How well did the students construct their design? Is the design durable? Can the construction be altered to accommodate changing needs of the pet?
  • Design Function--How well does the design function according to team specified energy efficiency goals? Does the design provide a good habitat for the pet? Are the size and features appropriate? Will the habitat maintain appropriate temperatures?
  • Creativity of Design--How creative is the design? Is it a novel or interesting solution to a problem?
  • Marketing Materials--Do the marketing materials inspire interest or create demand for the product? How well did the student team market their cottage to you during your judging visit?


Critter Comfort Cottage Awards

The awards for each division (elementary, middle and high) will be as follows:

  • 1st Place Design (separate awards for middle & high school)
  • 2nd Place Design (separate awards for middle & high school)
  • 3rd Place Design (separate awards for middle & high school)
  • WOW! Award (for the most creative/artistic entry)