Santa Clara University

Solar Decathlon News

Friday, October 19:

From Communications Coordinator Heidi Williams: THIRD PLACE OVERALL!!! At 2 pm EST, in a pavilion stuffed two to three times over capacity with competition officials, team members, and spectators, U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman commended the decathletes, stating "this year's competition has set new standards" for the event. Among the innovations he praised was our own Prof. Mark Aschheim's bamboo I-beam technology. Secretary Bodman said the goal of the Department of Energy in hosting this contest is to see that products such as these are made available to the consumer sooner, rather than later.

Upon finishing his remarks, it was time, at last, to get down to business and announce the top three finalists. The Santa Clara contingent held their breath as Secretary Bodman announced, "Third place goes to the Cinderella team from California..." We're assuming he ended his sentence by announcing Santa Clara University, but his words were lost in the din of the uproar from the crowd! Pure joy, gratitude, and pride shone from the faces of our decathletes as they took the podium and accepted their trophy. James Bickford, student team leader, spoke of "a new reality" in construction and energy use that is being ushered in through the work exhibited here in Washington, D.C. Watch the video.

It was quite a journey from an 18th place start after the architecture scoring at the beginning of the contest to 3rd place overall! The final morning of the competition started with SCU one point away from sixth place. As the team completed two more hot water tests, and assorted other tasks (including running a video on the television for an hour), we quickly moved up the leader board. A cheer went up as Agustin Fonts announced, "we made top five!" Soon, we were at number three and were cautiously optimistic about maintaining that position with the engineering awards still to be announced. When SCU didn't make top three in that category, the tension in the students' faces was visible as they awaited the announcement of the overall winners. But then Secretary Bodman said, "This team pledged to design, construct, and display a sustainable solar house that is functional, elegant, intelligent, and innovative..." and we knew we'd won third place--that wording was in the team's mission statement and had been part of their communications from the very start. What a thrill to see the team take their place on the stage!

Congratulations to all who participated in this success - the student team, faculty advisors, University supporters, corporate and individual sponsors, and friends of the project!

Read the SCU press release about the team's outstanding finish.

Read the San Jose Mercury article.

Thursday, October 18:

From Communications Coordinator Heidi Williams: Yesterday’s preparation for our team’s dinner party was like an episode from television’s Top Chef! Team members Yasemin Kimyacioglu and Ty Ashford had a very limited amount of time to shop, prep, and cook a gourmet salmon dinner for six of their neighbors on Decathlete Way. When guests arrived, they were welcomed into a most inviting space with a beautifully appointed table set on the front deck and appetizers served on the back patio. The balmy D.C. evening was a perfect atmosphere for a fun evening of food, music, games, and camaraderie.

This morning began with more hot water tests. The team had to boil five pounds of water in 8-10 minutes—no problem for these pros! They also had to run the dishwasher in a reasonable amount of time, and had to wash and dry 12 towels within 4 hours. Throughout the day, the house was constantly being monitored for humidity and temperature control—another area in which our students excel.

It was shaping up to be another day of business as usual—tours, testing, and talking with visitors from all over the country. The team had started the day in 9th place and held that position through the announcement of the scores for market viability (placing 6th in that category, but only 8 points away from 1st). As they headed out for a personal tour of the Capitol Building by Congressman Honda’s aide, Joshua McElwee, they were confident they could continue to climb in the standings with their energy balance and comfort control. And they were right; by the end of the night, 1 point away from 6th place!

Woohoo! We are all thrilled with this result, and Prof. Jorge Gonzalez couldn’t be prouder of the team. He notes that if you eliminated the architecture category, and just scored the teams on the other contests that focus on engineering, SCU would be in 2nd place—a tremendous accomplishment for our students and our School of Engineering.

Tomorrow brings more testing and the announcement of engineering and overall standings. We can hardly wait!

Wednesday, October 17:

From Communications Coordinator Heidi Williams: Yesterday, the SCU team received a 2nd place award in the Communications contest. Their website was judged to be superior and they received 49 out of 50 possible points for their guided tour. Our students represent SCU beautifully with their articulate, intelligent, and fun response to visitors and judges, alike. At the end of the day, they had moved from 18th to 13th place overall. Congratulations to Meghan Mooney for spearheading the communications effort, and to all the team members for expressing their vision so clearly and enthusiastically!

This morning, I was fortunate enough to witness a hot water test. Teams must heat 15 gallons of water to a minimum of 110 degrees Fahrenheit in less than 10 minutes. Nora Hendrickson confidently hooked up a hose to the shower head and began filling a vessel with hot water—115 degrees within 30 seconds! She reached the 15 gallon mark well within the allotted time. Other team members gathered round to watch intently. Solar Decathlon officials Greg Shoukas and Paul Norton complimented the team on their consistency in this test, saying “You’ve really got this down,” and “You guys rock!” This morning, the lighting competition results were announced, and SCU scored well enough on both these events to bring us into a tie for 10th place!

Team member Ryan Leary mentioned that the team’s stellar engineering is helping them gain points in the competition. SCU is currently in second place in energy balance, and our engineering students are constantly strategizing on how best to maximize their energy use. Alberto Fonts said they’re monitoring the house 24/7, checking and adjusting settings remotely from their student digs during off hours.

This afternoon, Congressman Honda is coming for a tour and tonight the team hosts a dinner party for eight guests (one of the ten contests on which they are being judged). Spirits are high and the team is focused on success. They are having fun and bringing a joyous spirit to their competition. You’d be so proud of them!

Friday, October 12, 2007:

Today is the grand opening of the Solar Decathlon competition! Check out the photo on the event's official Website and look for the California and Santa Clara University School of Engineering flags in the background.

Read today's San Jose Mercury News article about the SCU team.

Read the team's blog.

Thursday, October 11, 2007:

The team reports that the house looks beautiful and all systems are working well and are ready to go. After arriving three days behind everyone else, SCU's entry was among the first to be certified as safe for the expected 100,000 visitors to tour through. They've had a lot of good sunshine, and their batteries are already full of stored energy.

Congressman Mike Honda invited the team to come to the Capitol Building and meet with California's representatives. The students spoke about their project and educated these policymakers on sustainability. Congressman Honda addressed what Congress is doing to promote energy efficiency, and he praised the team for their work in promoting a sustainable world. Following the meeting, the team was given a tour of the Capitol before heading back to become VIP tour guides, themselves, showing their entry off to the corporate sponsors of the competition.

Tonight a small delegation from the SCU team will enjoy a dinner at the Smithsonian Castle, sponsored by BP.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007:

The team worked well into the night, testing the controls system, assembling the deck, and passing inspections in preparation for Friday's opening.

View Blue Egg's videos of the team.

Monday, October 8, 2007

The team had a very productive day. They installed the batteries for storing electricity, and half the deck is set up. The solar panels are up, but not working yet. They will be inspected tomorrow morning and then they'll get them running. Water was delivered this afternoon, and it will start heating tomorrow.

Faculty project leader, Professor Tim Hight, reports that the students have amazing stamina and are working very hard. He also notes that SCU is getting a lot of attention because of the trials and tribulations in getting the house to D.C.

Friday, October 5, 2007

From Faculty Advisor and Professor Tim Healy: With the United States Capitol in the background, the flashing lights of the escort cars told us what we had been waiting to hear for four days.  The house was here.  As it pulled up the long gravel stretch of the National Mall, many of the team ran to greet it, and cheers went up all around.  Arrival was just after 9 pm.  By midnight both units were in place.  One shift remains to do initial structural work.  A second team has come home to rest for 4 hours and then up at 6 am.  We will be competitive.  The delay will be offset by our preparations on site and by the degree of completeness before we left.  We look good.  Now we shall see how we do.

Read more about the arrival of SCU's house on the National Mall.

Monday, October 1, 2007:

Disappointing news! The truck carrying the SCU solar house to Washington, D.C. was disabled with two bent axles at the Iowa/Nebraska border over the weekend. Team members are working furiously to locate the parts, find a mechanic, get money to the site of the breakdown, and obtain special permission from each state along the way to get the house quickly through once it's rolling again. Professor Tim Healy notes that when the team got the news of the breakdown, there was not a depressed look on any of their faces. It was just another problem that needed to be solved, and they went to work on it. The students are optimistic that the house will soon be on its way.

James Bickford, student project leader, notes that ours is not the only team encountering major technical difficulties. Puerto Rico is 3,000 lbs. oversized and encountering problems in getting their house to D.C., as well. The Pennsylvania team lost their front door on the highway and is delayed. Also, the Kansas team is stuck in Pennsylvania. Here's hoping every entry makes it safely to the National Mall.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007:

The truck axle is fixed, and the house is on its way to D.C.!

Sunday, September 23, 2007:

Today, nearly a year-and-a-half's work on SCU's Solar Decathlon entry culminated with the loading of the house onto a 60' trailer headed for Washington, D.C. Two trucks full of household goods and equipment were packed to the gills and sent on their way to the National Mall for the competition in October. Teams will gather and begin assembly at 12:01 a.m., October 3, and the competition will run October 12-20.

As the truck was exiting the construction site, a problem was encountered--a broken axle! Team members and University personnel scrambled to find a replacement and get it to campus quickly. Help is on the way; an axle was found in Sacramento. Hopes are high that the truck will soon be on the road again.

Read all about the SCU Solar Decathlon entry.

SCU Places Third in Solar Decathlon!
SCU Solar Decathlon Team Celebrates Third Place Finish
Living Room of SCU Solar Decathlon House
Kitchen of SCU Solar Decathlon House
SCU's School of Engineering flag flies high over the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
With the Smithsonian Castle in the background, work continues on SCU's entry.
Team members work on finishing touches in the living room.
Students work into the night finishing the SCU entry.
Yasemin Kimyacioglu hard at work in the kitchen.
James Bickford (left) and Agustin Fonts prepare for inspections.
Carpenters from San Jose's Local 405 assist the team with assembly.
Team with Secretary of Energy Bodman
Off to D.C.!
Getting ready to move.
Andrew Smith hard at work
Sunny skies over Santa Clara.
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