Decathletes Share Their Experiences

Missouri University Science and Technology Students working on SD2013 competition home, Photo by Emily VandivertLast fall, ASES rewarded 50 student participants of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon with an ASES membership and subscription to SOLAR TODAY.

Decathletes had inspiring stories to tell about their experiences at the event.

A selection is shared here, and see Solar Decathlon 2013 Energizes Southern California Audiences for the full story.

The most fun and rewarding part of the Decathlon was giving the tours. Full of pride for what we had built, we got to show off our designs, and that was fantastic. It was incredible to see the public’s reaction and hear comments from each visitor. It also let us know we were on the right track when we received several offers to buy the house!

Rob Best, Ph.D. student
Stanford University
Design and construction manager


I learned I could do things I previously didn’t think I could or never gave thought to doing.

What I liked best was the diversity of tasks. The tasks themselves each had their enjoyable and difficult aspects so I’m not particularly partial towards one or the other — I’m just glad I got to take part in them all.

(And yay! SOLAR TODAY! I read the first copy of your magazine when I found it on my dad’s shelf in 7th grade 🙂 Excited to get my own!)

Diniana Piekutowski, sophomore
Stanford University
Communications team member, landscaping lead, construction

The team chose to be our own general contractor — the procurement (down to the last nail), management of student labor and subs schedules were the most challenging parts of the process. We think all architecture/engineering students should be required to have field experience like this, as we can do a much better job as designers now.

The experiences from working with professionals to presenting the project to various audiences were truly rewarding. But the most fun was reassembling the house in 10 days on competition site and chasing down the required inspections.

Alexia Chen, master’s student
University of Nevada Las Vegas
Project manager

This is a rather unorthodox form of technology, but I felt the interaction design technologies we used in our home were great for teaching homeowners about home efficiency. For example, one of the main pieces of interaction design I worked with was a bathroom push sink. The idea was to have a knee-operated sensor that constantly required the user to provide a small amount of pressure on it for the water to run out of the faucet. This piece was meant to be a way for homeowners to be more conscious of water consumption through a simple gesture.

Alex Nutkiewicz, sophomore
Stanford University
Interaction designer, architect

Getting to know the other Decathletes and hearing all of the positive feedback from the public tours were my favorite aspects. It was a great time to network with students with similar interests and similar struggles. We also took a lot of pride in the reaction people had as they walked through our home.

Chris Bowe, senior
Missouri University of Science and Technology
Project manager, construction crew, tour guide

SD Missouri University of Science and Technology, Emily VandivertThe soft skills and networking opportunities gained from this project were incredible. I was invited to give presentations all over the state to professionals in the sustainable energy industry. Team management was also a valuable skill that can be applied to my professional career.

Emily Vandivert, graduated May 2013
Missouri University of Science and Technology
Project manager, architecture design lead

Something that I find very interesting is the use of solar thermal panels. I think it’s great that we can use solar energy to not only power a house, but to heat water to use in the house! I loved participating in the Solar Decathlon because of all the knowledge I gained. Not only did I get to show off a house I was so proud to help build, but I got to learn new things from visitors and their ideas. It was also amazing to get to tour all the other houses. While it was a competition, I think everyone was able to win by being able to teach and learn during the experience!

Leann Krieger, sophomore
Missouri University of Science and Technology
Public relations

Control Systems for Individuals to monitor and track energy consumption are key because they allow the homeowner to become more eco-conscious.

I’m currently working for URS in design/ project management doing some energy-efficiency projects for public schools in New York City. The Decathlon definitely geared my professional interests towards sustainability and was wonderful experience for my career path.

Farah Ahmad, graduated in 2012
The City College of New York (Solar Decathlon 2011)
Public relations, design, construction

See Solar Decathlon 2013 Energizes Southern California Audiences for the full story.

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