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Orange County Sustainability Decathlon Announces Collaboration With the Wyland Foundation

Orange County Sustainability Decathlon Announces Collaboration With the Wyland Foundation

July 18, 2023
By OCSD Communications

Orange County Sustainability Decathlon (OCSD) organizers announced today that the October 2023 international competition and festival will feature the Wyland Foundation’s Clean Water Mobile Learning Experience. In addition to touring innovative, net-zero-energy homes, families can visit the Clean Water Mobile Learning Experience during all event hours, October 5-15, at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa, Calif. The interactive Wyland exhibit is made possible due to a generous grant from the City of Costa Mesa. 

Founded by renowned environmental artist Wyland, the Wyland Foundation inspires people everywhere to discover the importance of healthy oceans and waterways through public art programs, classroom science education, and live events. Programs like the Clean Water Mobile Learning Experience inspire millions of people to become creative, positive, and solution-oriented stewards of our marine resources.

“I’m very pleased that the Sustainability Decathlon is happening in Costa Mesa, and we are honored to sponsor the Wyland exhibit,” said Costa Mesa Mayor John Stephens. “Costa Mesa is the ‘City of the Arts,’ which makes our sponsorship of an exhibit of works by the world’s foremost marine artist especially appropriate.”

“We want to celebrate the great work done by nonprofits like the Wyland Foundation on behalf of the environment,” said Fred Smoller, who, along with Mike Moodian, cofounded the event which challenges university teams to design and build model solar-powered homes that address climate change and California’s housing needs. OCSD teams will showcase innovative, market-ready model homes to display at a sustainable village which will be open to the public.

“All sustainability initiatives start with clean water and clean air,” said Wyland, who started the foundation in 1993. “We’re proud to align our outreach efforts on smart water use with the OCSD’s efforts to help prepare students to tackle the environmental issues they will face in the future. The clean water experience not only provides thought-provoking content, but also showcases solutions that everyone can use for a healthier, more sustainable community.”

Decathlon organizers have made a special effort to reach out to K-12 students in giving them opportunities to learn about their local environment and the importance of protecting native plants and animals. The Wyland Foundation’s mobile exhibit is specifically designed for this. 

The 1,000-square-foot mobile exhibit was created by the foundation several years ago in the wake of a series of educational outreach tours with Wyland and a team of naturalists and educators who traveled throughout the east and west coasts and Mississippi River. Wyland Foundation President Steve Creech said that rural and budget-strapped schools were looking for more STEM-based environmental science options that could be delivered directly to schools where they were needed most. After working with science educators, the foundation invested more than a million dollars on the clean-water science center, using a range of state-of-the-art interactive features, including a 40-person on-board theater with special effects such as wind and fog, and a watershed room where students could actually make it rain inside. 

Other exhibits include explorations of water as a shared resource, in which students work together on a river diversion plan to ensure that limited supplies of freshwater on the Colorado River can still meet various needs. Students also learn about changes on marine systems over 400 years of human development, how watersheds function, and burgeoning issues like eutrophication, algae blooms, and human impacts on the marine food web.

This year, the foundation added a new state-of-the-art video feature to the mobile exhibit in which students are enlisted as science explorers from another planet to assist the people of earth in solving the current water crisis. Using more than one million pixels of video data a second, students soar through space, then travel around the world to discover the beauty of Earth’s water resources. To date, more than one million students in the United States and Mexico have toured the exhibit. 

The Orange County Sustainability Decathlon will feature the collegiate competition, as well as a STEAM Student Showcase that is open to both high school and college teams. 

The Decathlon is funded primarily by the State of California, courtesy of State Senator Dave Min, along with grants from local government entities. Visit to learn more.

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