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

Elusive Deal With Iran Could Yield Foreign Policy Legacy for Obama

A new Iranian leader -- and a strategic shift by the United States -- opens narrow window for nuclear agreement with Tehran More

Column: Saudi-Iran Meeting Could Boost Fight Against Islamic State

The fact that Iranians and Saudis are talking again does not guarantee a breakthrough, but it could make it easier to build a broad coalition against IS More

Thai Ruler Gives Top Cabinet Posts to Junta Inner Circle

Thailand's army chief has kept an iron grip on power as he extends the government, hand-picking an interim parliament that subsequently nominated him prime minister 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.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
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 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.

AppleAndroid