Success at the National Solar Decathlon competitions in the past several years has raised the bar for SCU’s engineering program. Students have been the focus of this success, and their efforts are the main reason SCU’s teams have won 3rd place in the past two competition. But students owe much of their success to the support of their faculty advisors.
Dr. Hight, one of the faculty advisors for the project, has been the faculty project manager for all of SCU’s Solar Decathlon projects. Although he chose to study the broader field of mechanical engineering, he has always been interested in environmental engineering. When he heard about the Solar Decathlon project, he was easily drawn to it.
“My work with the Solar Decathlon teams has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career,” says Dr. Hight. “I have been so impressed with the abilities of our student leaders to grow with the project and meet the extreme challenges placed in front of them.”
Dr. Hight has loved watching each of the separate teams develop and overcome obstacles on the road to the final competition. SCU’s team is unique, he says, because unlike the teams at some other schools, the SCU Solar Decathlon team is led entirely by undergraduate students.
SCU’s 3rd place finish in the 2007 competition set the stage for a stronger team in subsequent years, according to Dr. Hight. “Our success in the first competition had an enormous impact on the School of Engineering, as it was the highest and broadest visibility that the school has ever seen,” he says. “We were featured in many stories throughout the country and even overseas.”
The coverage was great for the engineering program, and the success in the 2007 and 2009 competitions has increased awareness of SCU as a place to go for students interested in engineering and the environment. Dr. Hight says the success is certainly related to the increased applications the School of Engineering has had in recent years.
Looking forward to the 2013 competition, Dr. Hight is even more optimistic about the team’s chances. “They are again a gifted group who have established a very strong team spirit and will to win,” he says. “The team’s Google calendar is filled with several meetings every day and long work days in the School of Engineering Design Center every Saturday.”
The team is currently in the final stages of design, working hard to complete construction documents that are due on February 14th. Decisions made by students responsible for one aspect of the project will affect all other aspects, so the team must take a systems approach that requires extensive communication between sub-teams.
Dr. Hight is grateful of the University’s continued support for the SCU Solar Decathlon team. He says, “The project requires a large commitment of resources by the University, in terms of money, faculty and staff time, student time, space to build the houses, and so on, and, from the President’s office on down, this has always been there for us.”
Regardless of what happens at the competition later this year, Dr. Hight believes the University is doing everything it can to support the project and ensure the success of SCU’s Solar Decathlon team.
Dr. Hight says he is an optimist by nature, and the increasing support he sees on SCU’s campus related to clean energy gives him hope for the future. He believes that we, as a nation, can move toward a much greener future, but he remains convinced that the solution lies in political support for clean energy research and development.
“It takes strong policy decisions to sustain R&D funding in green energy over the long term, and it will probably take government incentives to keep deployment moving forward.”
Still, SCU and other schools’ participation in the international Solar Decathlon is promising for a cleaner, greener future, but it will take continued efforts from bright young minds, like those working on SCU’s Solar Decathlon team to achieve this.
We are grateful these students have the opportunity to work with and learn from Dr. Hight, who clearly is passionate about the Solar Decathlon and clean energy on campus, which goes a long way in creating a culture of sustainability at SCU.
Read more about the 2013 SCU Solar Decathlon team and project.
By Aven Satre-Meloy, '13 Sustainability Intern -- Communications