BALTIMORE — Students at Fallstaff Elementary/Middle School were “electrified” with excitement after learning their school was the winner of the third annual “Adventures of Captain Mercaptan℠,” BGE Natural Gas Safety Hero Challenge. The students received the surprise announcement during an all-school assembly, and also learned that the school would receive $10,000 as the top prizewinner.
The contest challenged public and private elementary school students at schools in BGE’s service area to illustrate a gas safety message featuring Captain Mercaptan, BGE’s fictional natural gas safety superhero, for a chance to win the $10,000 top prize toward a school enrichment project.
Overall, $35,000 is being awarded by BGE to area schools as part of the contest. Fallstaff Elementary/Middle School third grader Genesis Bobadilla created the winning illustration, which will be featured in a BGE natural gas safety advertisement in the spring. Fallstaff Elementary/Middle School plans to use the funding towards educational murals along with educational enrichment activities during the summer such as reading sessions and field trips. The school also plans to purchase computers.
“One of the great things about this contest is that it gets the kids talking about gas safety,” said BGE Senior Communications Specialist Justin Mulcahy. “We have seen that children take the message back home to their parents and community.”
“Captain Mercaptan” teaches kids to recognize a natural gas leak and what steps to take if they smell gas. Captain Mercaptan’s name is derived from the safety additive mercaptan that BGE and other utilities put in natural gas to give it a distinctive “rotten egg” odor that makes gas easier to detect. The superhero and his safety sidekicks “Sunny” and “Piper,” were designed by elementary school students through the BGE Natural Gas Safety Hero Challenge.
Captain Mercaptan teaches children that they can be a hero if they follow simple safety tips including using their nose to detect a rotten egg smell, their ears to listen for the hissing sound of escaping gas, and their eyes to look for dirt being blown into the air, and dead plants or grass in otherwise green areas.
“This contest allows us to grab children at an early age, and to get them thinking about safety topics,” said Mulcahy. “When the students found out that Fallstaff had won, they were so happy, and it was fun to be a part of it. You could tell how much this meant to them. The top prize money allows the school to be able to purchase new things. They were very grateful. BGE is very happy to play our small role and to do our part in the community.”
Claudette McLish teaches Pre-K through eight at Fallstaff Elementary/Middle School, and is Bobadilla’s teacher.
“I found out the school had won a week earlier,” recalled McLish. It was extremely difficult to keep the secret, but also fun at the same time. It was very exciting. We have some broken computers, and this will help us to get new computers, which will help enhance the teaching experience. I am so happy we were able to pull this off, and Genesis’ concept was very relatable.”
She added, “We thank BGE for this great program. Some focus on the money, but I look at the safety in the home, which this program promotes. The money put the icing on the cake.”
Area schools submitted 29 drawings and descriptions of Captain Mercaptan in March before public voting and a panel of judges selected the winners. Nearly 50,000 votes were cast online.
In addition to the first place prize, a top entry was chosen for grade levels kindergarten through fifth. The schools were presented with the $5,000 BGE “Hero Award.” The winners were: (kindergarten) Jarrettsville Elementary School; (first grade) Our Lady of Mount Carmel; (second grade) Perry Hall Christian School; (third grade): Fallstaff Elementary/Middle School; (fourth grade) North Bend Elementary School; and (fifth grade) St. Stephen School.
BGE provides natural gas service to more than 650,000 gas customers in central Maryland. Customers are reminded to immediately contact BGE at 800-685-0123 from a safe location if they have any questions or concerns about natural gas.