News / USA

    Liberal Arts Students Tackle Solar Home Challenge

    Vermont's Middlebury College joins global competition

    Artist's rendering of the solar-powered house Middlebury College students designed as part of a global competition.
    Artist's rendering of the solar-powered house Middlebury College students designed as part of a global competition.

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Nina Keck

    For college students around the world, the race is on to design and build the most affordable, innovative and attractive solar-powered house.

    Teams contending for the top prize will reconstruct their finished homes on the National Mall in Washington D.C., next month.

    Among the hopeful entrants is a team from Middlebury College, a liberal arts school in the northeastern state of Vermont that is competing for the first time this year. Construction on the team's small house has been going on for months.

    Middlebury college senior Addison Godine crouches to sand wooden trim around a doorway. While he works inside the house, a half-dozen other students are outside, unloading lumber, cutting siding and watering bushes that will line the deck.

    Addison Godine sprays insulation made from shredded, recycled newspaper in the team’s house.
    Addison Godine sprays insulation made from shredded, recycled newspaper in the team’s house.

    "During the summer, I’m probably here about 10-12 hours a day,” Godine says. "It’s been a lot of work, but it’s finally paying off. The house looks as good as we could have hoped considering we’re the liberal arts team, the team of undergraduates against Cal Tech and all sorts of engineering schools like that. We’re the underdogs, but we think we’ll do okay.”

    Competition in the biennial Solar Decathlon is fierce. The U.S. Department of Energy evaluates written proposals from dozens of schools and selects 20 teams to compete. Each team must design and build a 100 percent solar-powered house. This year, for the first time, houses will also be judged on affordability.

    Team Germany won the competition two years ago. The Middlebury students traveled to Washington D.C., to tour the winning house as well as others on display on the National Mall.

    “When we were at the Solar Decathlon in 2009, the students all agreed that what we want in our house would be more of a home for a family than a sort of eco-bachelor pad,” student Alex Jopek says.  

    So the Middlebury design adapts a traditional New England farmhouse to include two bedrooms, one bathroom and a large open family living space that encompasses a living room, study area, loft, kitchen and dining area.

    Artist's rendering of interior of the team's solar-powered farmhouse (Middlebury College)

    “People are immediately taken by the amount of light in the house. I think people also really like the kitchen,” says Melissa Segil.

    She and teammate Jesse Catalano spent a lot of time on the design. Catalano points out the industrial-type shelves that turn what had been empty space in front of kitchen windows into a greenhouse.

    “The idea is you’ll be able to start seedlings here - and then as I’m standing in this space, turn around, grab herbs, grab some lettuce - whatever - turn back this way where I have my cooktop, stove and sink and prepare what I’d like," Catalano says. "Very little movement, lots of thought.”

    Middlebury students generated the ideas, but professional builders and contractors have helped with nearly every step. The Department of Energy gave each team $100,000 to work with. However, with construction, travel and other costs, they’ll expect to spend six times that. So fundraising and marketing have also been a big part of the project.

    Professional builders worked with students to construct the solar-powered house.
    Professional builders worked with students to construct the solar-powered house.

    “What we’ve learned is that the solar decathlon is more like a marathon because it requires dedication at such a high level for such a long time,” Godine says.

    Middlebury’s house is nearly finished, but the team faces one final challenge; they have to take it all apart, truck it to Washington D.C., and put it all back together again on the National Mall.

    Sitting on the deck as a load of lumber is dropped off, Godine rolls his eyes at the thought. But then he looks at the house and smiles. At Middlebury, he says, students learn a lot about the world’s problems - especially environmental ones.

    “And this competition is our opportunity to create a solution to these problems. Which is an amazing opportunity.”

    The winner of the 2011 Solar Decathlon will be chosen October 1.

    You May Like

    Video For Many US Veterans, the Vietnam War Continues

    More than 40 years after it ended, war in Vietnam and America’s role in it continue to provoke bitter debate, especially among those who fought in it

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    100 immigrants graduated Friday as US citizens in New York, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in cities across country

    Family's Fight Pays Off With Arlington Cemetery Burial Rights for WASPs

    Policy that allowed the Women Airforce Service Pilots veterans to receive burial rites at Arlington had been revoked in 2015

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora