Innovating Sustainable Solutions on Game Day: Football Star Shares Insights

    As students ideate sustainability solutions for football games, Charlotte native and Carolina Panthers star Ikem “Ickey” Ekwonu talks the importance of STEM – and what he envisions for the future of his city

    If you’ve been to a football game in America, you know what it’s like to cheer on your favorite team in a stadium packed with thousands of fans: exhilarating and full of camaraderie.

    Imagine stepping behind-the-scenes of game day operations. Stadium teams are focused on lighting, displays, sound, security, energy efficiency and more – all of which help ensure that you’re having a comfortable, safe and memorable experience as a fan.  

    How can technology make the game day experience more sustainable?

    That’s the challenge sixth, seventh and eighth graders in Charlotte will be tackling as part of the Futureshaper Sustainability Challenge, a pitch-style competition hosted as a partnership between Honeywell; the Carolina Panthers, part of the NFL; and education nonprofit Digi-Bridge. 

    To kick off the challenge, students heard from a panel of experts from Honeywell and the Carolina Panthers who gave insight into building operations and sustainable technologies. And, since game day isn’t anything without the team you're cheering for, Carolina Panthers star Ikem “Ickey” Ekwonu surprised students with a special appearance.

    We caught up with Ekwonu about the game day experience from his perspective as an athlete – and, having grown up in the Charlotte area, why he sees sustainability and STEM education as pivotal to the community’s future.

    How does sustainability play a role in your life every day – game day or not?

    Ekwonu: “Sustainability plays a big role in my life. It can be as small as me just bringing out my recycling bin when I can, and making sure I distribute my papers and my plastics in the right bin. Also, reusing when I can, such as not constantly reopening different pairs of gloves."

    Throughout this challenge, students will focus on sustainability while getting hands-on exposure to STEM education. Why is all of that important for this community?

    Ekwonu: “I think promoting STEM education and sustainability in Charlotte is so important because it pertains so much to the future. As Charlotte improves and Charlotte grows, there's going to be different ways that we can be wasteful and kind of impacting that. Overall, just bringing down a carbon footprint is going to do a lot for the future.”

    As someone who grew up in Charlotte, what is your vision for the city 10 years from now?

    Ekwonu: “Something that excites me a lot is just everything developing in the city. I think it’s going to be a big mecca of opportunity and experiences and different cultures. As Charlotte grows, we get more people from different states and cities. So having that fusion – I'm really excited for it.”

    Stay tuned to learn about students’ pitches for more sustainable gameday experiences!

    In the meantime, catch up on other stories about how Honeywell is making an impact in our communities, from sending students to space camp to investing in a sustainability education initiative to empower teachers.