The Solar Decathlon (open to the public Oct. 5-9 and 12-15) is on its way to Denver’s 61st & Peña Station to showcase the latest solar and energy efficiency technologies in homes designed by and built by college and university students from around the world. This year 13 teams—some from just one school, like Northwestern University in Chicago and some from multiple schools that have partnered to compete—will compete in the series of solar and energy efficiency tests for a $300,000 grand prize.
As Northwestern University announced late last month, the House By Northwestern team has prepared its Enable home for transportation from Chicago to Denver. It’s the university’s first introduction to the competition and the university said that more than 50 students participated in its design and construction.
The Northwestern house was designed for those ready to retire or in early retirement. “We spent a lot of time interviewing people and researching what makes a house a home,” said Northwestern Engineering junior Vivien Ng, who led the house’s interior design. “Homes need to appeal to the five senses and have a human touch. We want the owners to feel happy to live there.”
The Department of Energy, which holds the Solar Decathlon biennially, recently explored how the Solar Decathlon provides a unique student experience, preparing them for jobs in renewable energy, architecture, energy efficiency and more. Not to mention fund-raising. Earlier this year, for instance, the University of Nevada Las Vegas announced that it was raising $1 million to support its Solar Decathlon home. The fund raising not only helps the students buy materials and build the homes, but also with transportation, logistics and media.
“The Solar Decathlon is a uniquely large-scale university design-build competition, offering theory-to-practice opportunities for student teams and a fascinating learning experience for those visiting this free event in Denver, Colorado,” wrote Solar Decathlon’s Linda Silverman and Olivia Wolford. “Ten contests evaluate various aspects of energy-efficient, solar-powered houses, which teams have spent nearly two years designing, refining, and building.”
“One of the key features of the US Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon is the realistic experience it provides to participating students,” Silverman and Wolford explained. They recently introduced an infographic showing the range of jobs connected to the solar homes as well as the 10 contests of the Solar Decathlon.
The DOE has previously reported that a majority of energy sector employers said they’re having difficulty hiring qualified workers. The department said the decathlon helps address this by showing students how to work on a real-life, complicated project, providing hands-on experience that could help them find a career path.Tweet