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Many Hats for the Solar Decathlon Students

For the Santa Clara University 2013 Solar Decathlon team, the challenge of building a solar house is testing more than just design and engineering skills. The U.S. Department of Energy’s biennial competition is putting the students in many roles they have never explored.

“We really are like a startup company,” says Project Manager Jake Gallau, ’13. “Everyone has to wear many hats on this team. The person in charge of our plumbing is an economics major and our public relations team mostly consists of engineers. We’re all learning skills completely out of our realm."

For the first time, the team is also getting help from SCU business students through several classes. Marketing Professor of Practice Charles Byers is having students in two of his classes create comprehensive marketing plans for the team.

“I think it's very insightful that the DOE sees marketing as an important component in the discussion of solar energy and put a marketing component in the competition,” says Byers. “This will give students a real-world experience by treating the team as a client and creating marketing plans that will see the light of day. The goal is to give the team some great ideas to pick and choose from in addition to a platform to recruit a fresh batch of volunteers.”

Students in any course of study can work on SCU’s solar house project. More than 200 students are involved right now. This summer, a core group refined their construction skills by volunteering with Habitat for Humanity. The students also met with members of the 2007 and 2009 teams and have strong support from Bronco alumni who participated in the Solar Decathlon.

“A lesson we have learned is that having an outside space that is a part of the house is a big plus,” says Jay Dubashi, ’15. “The back deck in the 2009 house was a hit, and for 2013 we are going to try and go even further with that and really integrate the outside spaces.”

The nearly finalized design plans are due to the Department of Energy in October. The students plan to release the house name in the weeks to come, but are keeping much of their design plan under wrap. They do share that this year the focus is on affordability and accessibility. It may be the experience and skills gained outside their areas of expertise that will prove to be the real payoff.

“We have people to cover every aspect of the competition, and I couldn’t have asked for anything better,” says Gallau. “I encourage anyone motivated to try something new and gain leadership skills in the process to join the team.”

Visit the SCU Solar Decathlon website to learn more about the team.

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