Solar Decathlon: College Teams Compete

Traveling on the metro into Washington, D.C. I spotted a young woman wearing a Solar Decathlon T shirt. I slipped onto a seat behind hers and asked is she was on her way to the event too. She smiled and said that she was a member of the team from Purdue University. She was glad to discuss her team and their project. Her name was Sarah and she told me that the team had been working on their project for two years. Just recently they had traveled from the campus in Indiana to set up the soar home in the allotted seven days; although it took the team ten days to assemble and complete their project. They would man the display for two weeks and then dismantle the project and return to the campus. The display home was constructed in seven modules and looks much like a contemporary Indiana home. Sarah and I talked until we left the metro station; me on my way to the Solar Decathlon and Sarah to meet her parents, who had traveled from Indiana to support Sarah and the team, and guide them to the event.

The 2011 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon runs from September 23 through October 2. The event is located on the National Mall at the West Potomac Park. At the event visitors may tour the houses asking questions of the students who will guide them through the exhibit. Other exhibits are available in tents which house education, energy, technology and workshops.

The team’s projects make up the solar village comprised of houses designed and built by the students. The teams earn points through participation and judging in ten contests which are each worth one-hundred points. The contests are: Architecture, Market Appeal, Engineering, Communications, Affordability, Comfort Zone, Hot Water, Appliances, Home Entertainment and Energy Balance. The Final Awards Ceremony is Saturday, October 1 at 2:30 pm.

There is a People’s Choice Award earned by popular vote. Voting for this award may be accomplished by the general pubic with ballots at the event or online at

The event is easy to visit. Shuttle buses run every fifteen minutes from the Smithsonian Metro station to the Solar Village. The homes are close together and accessible. There are ample temporary restroom facilities, a first aid station and some food vendors.

It takes a bit of time to tour the homes and may take more than one visit to do so. The day I visited I toured the homes of the teams from the University of Maryland, The Ohio State University and Canada as well as many of the other exhibits in tents. I am sorry to say I did not make it to Sarah’s exhibit from Purdue University. I did post a slideshow of some of the exhibits I visited. I went early and left as the day brought more and more visitors and it became more difficult to spend time at the exhibits.

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