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 Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community 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.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid