August 21, 2019

RISE Challenge Colorado: History

The Rocky Mountain Environmental Challenge
is now the RISE Challenge!


2020 Competition & Summit

The appearance of the COVID 19 pandemic in the spring of 2020 presented challenges and opportunities to Colorado educators and students, and to the Rocky Mountain Environmental Challenge. However, despite the disruption to in-person learning, the RMEC did receive many great natural hazard mitigation and preparedness project proposals from classrooms across the northern Front Range. While the Summit was not able to go forward, proposal judging did. With the help of volunteer judges from the Larimer County League of Women Voters, along with our partners from FEMA Region 8, Association of State Floodplain Managers Foundation, and State Farm, Earth Force was able to recognize the winners from the 2020 Rocky Mountain Environmental Challenge. Congratulations to all of our participants!

1st Place, $1000 winner: Blevins Middle School

Seventh and eighth grade students at Blevins Middle School in Fort Collins, CO, identified a lack of emergency preparedness in their school community as a significant issue for their community. A school survey revealed that a large majority of students and their families lacked family emergency plans nor did they have adequate supplies in the case of a natural hazard emergency. In order to draw attention to this and start their community down the path of preparedness, the Blevins students decided to organize a community awareness event at their school. With support from their teacher, the students communicated with community stakeholders such as their principal, school district administrators, emergency response professionals, and city administrators to learn more about how to organize and coordinate a community awareness event and how to share the best information to Blevins families. As the students say in their proposal, “We love the community that we live in and we want to be able to have a positive impact on it. We asked the question, are we and our Blevins families prepared for a natural disaster? We want to have an informational night that helps educate our families about … how we can be prepared for those emergencies.”

2nd Place, $800 Winner: Estes Park Middle School

Sixth grade students from Estes Park Middle School in Estes Park, CO, identified the risk of wildfire as a significant issue affecting their community. Specifically, these students identified a key feature of the Estes Park landscape, Prospect Mountain, as an area of increased fire risk due to being surrounded by homes, businesses, and utilities. To learn more about this issue the Estes students researched fire behavior, consulted with local professionals from the real estate, fire protection, and town planning fields. Through their research, these students developed a community awareness and grass-roots mitigation campaign to address this risk to their community. The students plan on holding a fire preparedness demonstration at a large annual community event where they will inform attendees of what they can do to prevent fire from spreading through the community. The students also plan on providing fire mitigation services to Estes Park residents this summer. Students will clear fire fuels from properties where owners are unable to do the work on their own. Their ultimate goal is to transform Estes Park into a nationally recognized “Firewise USA” community.

3rd Place, $600 Winner: Mountain Sage Community School

Sixth and seventh graders from Mountain Sage Community School in Fort Collins, CO, identified a risk of an extended entrapment or shelter-in-place for their school in the event of a flood or blizzard. Located in close proximity to the Cache La Poudre River floodplain, the school has an increased risk for inaccessibility due to flooding and/or a blizzard. The Mountain Sage students spoke with a representative from Fort Collins’ Floodplain Management Office, reviewed information and videos about Fort Collins’ flood history, and conducted a preparedness audit of their school. From this research the students decided to develop an emergency preparedness plan for the school and purchase materials needed in the case a blizzard or flood event required the entire school to shelter-in-place for any extended duration. The Mountain Sage students plan to work with their school’s administration to formally adopt their emergency preparedness, purchase additional preparedness materials, and share their plan with other schools in their community.

Fourth Place – Compass Community Collaborative School (Fort Collins) middle and high school students who developed a proposal to organize a community flood awareness and preparedness event at the Poudre Valley Mobile Home Park.

Fifth Place – Knowledge Quest Academy (Milliken) students who created a plan to design and install park shelters and bus stops to keep residents safe during a storm event.


2019 Competition & Summit

Congratulations to the 2019 Winners of the Rocky Mountain Environmental Challenge!

For the second year in a row, Estes Park Middle School went home with first place in the Rocky Mountain Environmental Hazards Challenge. Congrats to all the young people who participated and their educators.

Take a look at a video of their award-winning presentation:

“The most important thing I learned through the RMEHC program is that we can make an impact on our environment.” — 2018/19 Student Participant

The 2018/19 RMEHC experienced a successful and pivotal year of program growth. Through innovative and pragmatic projects, students learned how to increase their community’s resilience to natural hazards, making their communities stronger, safer, and more prepared to deal with environmental challenges. Students from five schools presented their project proposals to a crowded district board room and handled tough questions from our expert panel of RMEHC judges representing the City of Fort Collins, Larimer County, State of Colorado, FEMA Region VIII, Colorado Association of Stormwater and Floodplain Managers, and the Association of State Floodplain Managers Foundation. Brad Anderson, Chair of the Projects Committee of the ASFPM Foundation Executive Board, said, “The student competition was a truly rewarding experience for me. I’m excited about the future given the results witnessed during the competition and the presentations that were delivered. The presentations demonstrated students’ enthusiasm and keen insight into a reduction of flood risk within our local communities.”

Also in attendance were representatives from the following organizations:

    • Larimer County Board of Commissioners
    • Larimer County Office of Emergency Management
    • Larimer Emergency Telephone Authority
    • Larimer County League of Women Voters
    • Weld County Office of Emergency Management
    • City of Fort Collins Mayor’s Office
    • City of Fort Collins City Council
    • City of Fort Collins Utilities Department
    • City of Longmont Stormwater Management
    • CU Boulder
    • Poudre School District Operations Department
    • Thompson School District Superintendent’s Office

2018 Competition & Summit

1st Place, $1000 winner: Estes Park Middle School
The issue of community wildfire protection was chosen by Estes Park students.  Their object was to encourage people in Estes Park to use the Firewise USA suggestions to protect their homes from spreading wildfires.

Their proposed solution was to:

  • Create scaled models to see how wildfires spread
  • Share information with the community about the Firewise USA program (social media, newspaper articles, etc.)
  • Build a partnership between the Estes Park School District and EVFPD to take Firewise USA action steps
  • The EVFPD will inspect homes free of charge for fire protection and prevention; Homeowners can ask for help in reaching Firewise USA suggestions.
  • Recruit and train middle and high school students to do simple jobs around homes in the community to meet some Firewise USA suggestions
  • Plan three days of volunteer work for this summer


2nd Place, $800 winner: Blevins Middle School
Students at Blevins Middle School decided to focus on the impact of flooding on habitat with an objective to better understand the impact of flooding and stormwater management on habitat areas in Fort Collins. The proposed solution was to place wildlife cameras in the Cache La Poudre, Cooper Slough/Boxelder, Old Town, Fox Meadows, McClellands, and Fossil Creek drainage basins so that they would have data from all 12 of the drainage basins in Fort Collins before, during, and after a flood event. This would allow them and the City of Fort Collins to know if the current flood mitigation strategies are working the way that they should and if there needs to be any changes to the current strategies.


3rd Place, $600 winner, Webber Middle School
To improve and provide for school response to and emergency preparedness for natural hazard events. Their solution would be to make natural disaster emergency kits, which they currently do not have at Webber Middle School.



4th place went to Compass Community Collaborative School that focused on the issue of stormwater and flooding on their school grounds. 5th place went to High Plains School who focused on poor drainage on their school field.