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Schoolchildren from Across Mass. Receive Awards for Educating Commuters

Winning Artwork on Public Transit Raises Awareness About Climate Change

Cool Science 2016 artwork

This artwork by Hannah Nicolson of Hadley is among the winners of this year's Cool Science contest.


Media contacts: Nancy Cicco, 978-934-4944 or and Christine Gillette, 978-934-2209 or

LOWELL, Mass. – Schoolchildren from across Massachusetts who are educating commuters and the public about the effects of climate change were honored today at UMass Lowell.   

The annual Cool Science contest asks students in elementary school through high school to create artwork that depicts concepts about climate science. The top six submissions are featured on posters in and on Lowell Regional Transit Authority buses, where they are seen by thousands of public-transit passengers. Submissions to this year’s contest totaled more than 1,100 – more than double the number from 2015 – signaling the program’s growing popularity and ability to engage students about the topic, say organizers. 

Leading Cool Science are David Lustick and Jill Lohmeier, both professors in UMass Lowell’s Graduate School of Education, and Robert Chen, a professor of environmental, earth and ocean sciences at UMass Boston. 

“Involving more of the state’s schoolchildren than ever before, Cool Science offers an innovative way for young people to work with their teachers, parents and peers to learn about the science behind climate change,” Lustick said. “The art that is created as a result engages mass-transit riders, helping to also educate them about environmental challenges and how to mitigate them.”  

This year’s 26 Cool Science contest winners were honored as their parents and teachers looked on during a ceremony on Friday, April 8 at O’Leary Library Learning Commons on UMass Lowell’s South Campus. An LRTA bus parked outside the library features posters made from the contest’s top entries. Art on the side of the bus in an approximately 7-foot-by-3-foot display was created by Hannah Nicolson of Hadley, a ninth-grader at the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School. A gallery of the winning submissions can be found on the Cool Science website,

“Opportunities for students to solve technical, social, economic and scientific problems to improve our planet abound,” Chen said. “Cool science empowers children to use their creative, artistic and research abilities to communicate directly with adults, the public and their communities about this critical issue.” 

The professors are conducting research on the effectiveness of the program as an educational method. Three UMass Lowell students are assisting with that research this year: Maria Blewitt, a doctoral candidate in science and math education from Reading; Alanna Grondine, a sophomore majoring in civil engineering; and Shanna Thompson, a doctoral candidate in leadership and schooling. Both Grondine and Thompson are from Dracut.      

“Cool Science has shown us that artwork created by students captures the attention of LRTA riders and increases the knowledge of students who enter the contest as well as the general public,” Lohmeier said. “We hope to expand this program to other regional transit authorities so that students’ artwork can be presented throughout the state.”

Contest entries came from 65 schools, youth organizations and home-schooled students from across Massachusetts. The winning artwork was selected for its clarity of message, scientific accuracy, creativity and artistic appeal. 

Cool Science’s partners include UPS, which this year supported the placement of student artwork on LRTA buses with a $2,500 award, demonstrating the company’s commitment to the community, education and the environment, according to program organizers. The LRTA and Anastas Advertising Associates Inc. have contributed to the program since 2012, with the LRTA donating advertising space and Anastas Advertising formatting the artwork that appears on the buses. Cool Science was launched in 2012 with $32,000 in seed money from the UMass President’s Creative Economy Initiatives Fund, which supports faculty projects in the arts, humanities and social sciences that benefit the state’s economy and improve the quality of life.  

Along with Hannah Nicolson of Hadley, first-place winners include:
  • Jillian Buonopane of Winthrop, a second-grader at William P. Gorman Fort Banks Elementary School; 
  • Mateo Santalucia of Hanson, a fourth-grader at Indian Head School: 
  • Mars Orfanos of Beverly, a sixth-grader at Briscoe Middle School; 
  • Kayla Sit of Amherst, an eighth-grader at Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School;
  • Morgan Bohn of Lee, a sophomore at Lee High School.
Runners-up include:
  • Tristan Marnoto of North Andover, a fourth-grader at Annie L. Sargent School: 
  • Abigail Delory of Whitman, a seventh-grader at Whitman Middle School;
  • Meghan Condon of Holyoke and Anastasia Fitzgerald of Chicopee, sixth-graders at Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School, who submitted an entry together;
  • Sonja Eiseman of Holyoke, a sophomore at Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School.
Honorable mention went to:
  • Pulin Nagwan of Weymouth, a first-grader at Thomas W. Hamilton Primary School;
  • Reid Schauman of Needham, a second-grader at Hillside Elementary School; 
  • Mellissa Cash of Winthrop, a third-grader at William P. Gorman Fort Banks Elementary School; 
  • Brooklyn Banfield of Winthrop, a third-grader at William P. Gorman Fort Banks Elementary School; 
  • Katherine Heavey of Milton, a sixth-grader at Pierce Middle School;
  • Emma Santos of Everett, a sixth-grader at Madeline English School;
  • Jasraj Dhanoya of Everett, a seventh-grader at Madeline English School;
  • Brooke Gratton and Gianna Halajian of Woburn, seventh-graders at Kennedy Middle School, who submitted an entry together;
  • Devon Atwell of Becket, a junior at Lee High School;
  • Colleen McDonagh of Lowell, a senior at Greater Lowell Technical High School;
  • Christian Alves of East Freetown, a sophomore at Old Colony Regional Vocational Technical High School;
  • Jaelynn Phillips of Hadley, a sophomore at Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School.
UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its more than 17,500 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be ready for work, for life and for all the world offers.