By Hiroko Sato
GROTON — Ian Peterson was ready to ski with his family this past February, but they were greeted by 60-degree temperatures when they arrived in Park City, Utah.
Walking near the sites of the 2002 Winter Olympics in a short-sleeved top was disappointing, according to Peterson, who recently completed his sophomore year at Groton-Dunstable Regional High School. What disturbed him more, though, is the thought that extreme weather may happen more often and anywhere if climate change continues.
“That stuck with me through the whole experience,” he said about the process of coming up with the idea for a mobile app that helps people cut back on the use of electricity to leave behind less of a carbon footprint.
His determination to help save the planet is only growing stronger now that he has won a contest held by Education First (EF) Educational Tours, earning him a full scholarship to travel to Europe next summer to attend an EF Global Student Leaders Summit. He plans to use the leadership skills he gains from the summit to help reduce carbon emissions.
After all, he said with a laugh, “I like to ski and snowboard in the snow, not in the dirt.”
The 16-year-old Peterson recently was selected one of the three winners as an EF Global Student Leaders Summit weShare competition. EF Educational Tours holds leadership summits around the globe to provide immersive, hands-on learning experience.
Following each summit, students are challenged to come up with solutions for the main issue discussed in the summit. Students may submit their solutions to win a scholarship to another summit.
GDRHS chose 11 students, including Peterson, to represent the school at the March 2015 summit in Costa Rica. About 500 participants learned about environmental sustainability, touring the island and listening to experts speak, including Jane Goodall, who served as the keynote speaker.
The contest drew 300 submissions, which were graded for seven different criteria, including reflection, vision and impact, creativity and communication of ideas, according to company spokesman Adam Bickelman.
Peterson submitted a video titled “Global Warming and Winter: Reducing Your Carbon Footprint” to explain the concept of a mobile app that Groton electric ratepayers could use to download their billing information, which would include which sources the power came from, such as hydro and nuclear. By simulating bills for different power-usage levels, it should encourage people to conserve, he said. The app also allow users to share their power-saving tips on social media like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Peterson, who intends to bike around the town even after getting a driver’s license, said he developed a passion for protecting the environment while pursuing his other interest, outdoor recreations.
“Everything slows down (when surrounded by the nature). It’s good to get away from everything, the rush of technology and all,” he said.
He had visited Costa Rica with his family once before. This time, Peterson learned about sustainable farming, protection of turtles and other efforts that the country is making to earn the reputation as the “greenest country on earth.”
Seeing sustainability efforts in action in Costa Rica was a defining moment for Ian, according to his father Andy Peterson. He said Ian’s interest in the field became real while interacting with his peers who share the same interests at such a conference.
The younger Peterson said he was so enthused about the video project that he spent all waking hours after school for one week working on it. His parents are proud of that. “He just went for it,” his father said.
“Ian is a bright young man who possess leadership qualities beyond his years,” GDRHS Principal Michael Mastrullo said in his email to The Sun. “It is my sincere hope that he builds on this opportunity. In addition to being bright and possessing leadership qualities, he is a young man with great character and a disciplined work ethic. He is a good ambassador for our school, and a great ambassador for our state and country when he travels abroad. We are proud of him.”
The scholarship will take Peterson to a summit in The Hague in Holland next year, which will focus on human rights issues. Peterson, who was called into the principal’s office to find out about the scholarship, said the summit teaches about not only issues but also how to put ideas into a reality and other skills.