The Good, the Bad and the Snuggly: Heroes and Villains of Duke Energy’s Popular In-School Programs

“Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s … Nikki Neutron!”

MyEnergyKit LogoThat’s not the way grown-ups remember that famous superhero opening, but Nikki Neutron is here to save the planet in a whole new way: by engaging students to save energy and resources. Faster than a three-way light bulb, more powerful than a nine-volt battery, and able to leap tall teachers in a single bound, students across North Carolina, South Carolina, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky might know Nikki as the superhero star of The Conservation Caper, this year’s in-school program brought to you by Duke Energy.

The 2016-17 school year is not Nikki’s first dance with danger, and it wasn’t always a comic book character who stole the show. Performed by actors on tour from The National Theatre for Children (NTC), let’s take a look back at the energy-saving (and wasting) stories through the years.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . . okay! Okay! It was the fall of 2011 when excited students and faculty members first met Nikki Neutron, a junior superhero in training, as the star of The Energized Guyz. Lesson one about this particular superhero league: their powers and talents are questionable, but their efforts and intentions to save energy are off the charts. With the assistance of U.R. Fired (the big boss), Cape Cod (designer of outlandish superhero garb), and most importantly, the students from each school, Nikki was able to defeat Dr. Maybe and teach the villain to “Open Your Eyes, Be Energy Wise!”

Since saving energy is goal number one, the story didn’t stop after the final round of applause. Duke Energy provided free Energy Kits to students, parents and faculty members whose schools hosted the energy-saving program. And in Nikki’s debut season, Duke distributed 40,000 Energy Kits, saving over 8.1 million kilowatt-hours of electricity. That’s the equivalent to the energy powering over 600 homes!

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A superhero’s work is never done.

After another successful Nikki Neutron adventure in 2012, Duke Energy expanded their in-school programming to Kentucky, and the NTC actors found themselves in the days of the Old West with a new hero: Sheriff Carrie Gooper. Sheriff Gooper and her posse of prospectors and cows (yes, cows) saved their beloved Dodge Ball City from an energy crisis, inspiring students and their families to request another 25,000 free Energy Kits to their households—not bad for a sheriff from a time when electricity wasn’t invented yet!

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Figure 1: Sheriff Carrie Gooper and her pal in Showdown at Conservation Canyon.

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Figure 2: Captain Doorknob, scourge of the high seas, and Merv Maid, a merperson, in The Treasure Trove of Conservation Cove.

In 2014, the state of Indiana joined Duke Energy’s energy-saving initiative, and NTC found its newest hero in The Treasure Trove of Conservation Cove. Like the famous Captain Hook, Captain Doorknob had an artificial appendage—and let’s admit it, a doorknob says “welcome aboard” much more warmly than a cold steel hook. When Doorknob confronted the nefarious energy-waster Pirate Pie-Rat, the Captain and his trusty crew of students taught him valuable lessons about natural resources. Captain Doorknob took the lead over Nikki Neutron that season, as students and their families brought the energy-saving total to 46,709 Energy Kits, saving 9.3 million kilowatt-hours of electricity.

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Figure 3: Harmonica Mars on the space station, aka gymnasium, in Space Station Conservation.

Space Station Conservation began orbiting Duke Energy’s five state area in 2015 when NTC launched Harmonica Mars, astronaut and harmonica player. Her harmonica skills weren’t great, but she played ALL THE TIME, which is why she was assigned to a space station on Mars. After a year in space, she was ready for a trip back to good old Earth until her boss, Sally Tide, rolled in with an assignment that Harmonica had to complete before she could return home—could Harmonica defeat the nasty alien Bile and retrieve a stolen Energy Kit? Would she ever return to earth? Learn the answer in Episode XVII. Just kidding! Harmonica and company inspired families to request 45,000 Energy Kits (saving 8.9 million kilowatt-hours of electricity) into homes.

We saved the best heroes for last: your students and their families!

Just as Sheriff Gooper set out to save Dodge Ball City and Captain Doorknob tried to get his ship back into gear, every school who hosts The Conservation Caper and Energy Agents has taken on their own challenge: the My Energy Kit Challenge.

Their mission? Help us save 10,000,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity in the 2016-17 school year. Their methods? Not super powers or space travel, that’s for sure. Families request free Energy Kits to be sent to their homes, and when they install the items inside, they can save hundreds of kilowatt-hours of electricity.

This March, the race to complete the My Energy Kit Challenge is already underway. Just after halfway into the year, our current tally is already over 39,000 Energy Kits, amounting to 7.8 million kilowatt-hours of electricity, which means the planet is that much closer to keeping its resources safe for generations to come, and we are so close to our 10 million kWh goal. We’re almost there, and we need your help! Request your free Energy Kit today, and spread the word to all the energy-saving heroes in your school community.

By the way, did you know superheroes get paid? That’s right: as a reward for saving energy, every 100 Energy Kits requested earns your school $250—think of is as the My Energy Kit version of a ticker tape parade.

Duke Energy and the My Energy Kit Team are proud of all we’ve accomplished so far—and we couldn’t have done it without you. Over the past six years, our energy heroes have generated the delivery of over 200,000 Energy Kits, accounting for tens of millions of kilowatt hours of energy savings. Score one more for the good guys!

Now brush off your cape, flex those muscles, and take the My Energy Kit Challenge! We’ve got some energy to save …

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Figure 4: Stars of The Conservation Caper: Nikki Neutron, the indecisive Dr. Maybe, and a class of energy-saving superheroes!


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