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

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

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.
South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infectionsi
X
November 28, 2014 3:31 PM
South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infections

South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.

All About America

AppleAndroid