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ODU Alumnus Donates $50,000 to Students' Solar Decathlon Project

A retired mechanical engineer and graduate of Old Dominion University's Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology has donated $50,000 to the joint ODU/Hampton University team that is participating in the 2011 Solar Decathlon, in Washington, D.C.

Jim Hayes, who lives in the D.C. area, made the gift. But he also did something potentially more valuable - he was the one who suggested ODU enter a team in the contest in the first place.

"Living in D.C., I'd go to the Solar Decathlon event (on the National Mall) and think to myself, 'Why isn't ODU doing this?'" Hayes said.

Through a contact, he suggested that a team be assembled, and was thrilled when the ODU group reached out to architecture students from Hampton University (ODU does not have an architecture school). Together they formed Team Tidewater Virginia. And the joint effort's submission - Unit 6 Unplugged - is one of 20 worldwide selected for the Solar Decathlon finals, which will be featured on the National Mall in fall 2011.

The team members are true project managers, looking after tasks as varied as fundraising, design, construction and energy technology as they work toward displaying their homes.

"It's good for students to learn more about project management," Hayes said. "The fact that this is a student-led initiative means that someone like me might not agree with all their decisions, but part of their process is working through things from start to finish."

That takes money. Hayes' donation is part of $80,000 the team has raised so far.

Besides Hayes' gift, significant donations have been received from Clark Nexsen, the Civil and Environmental Engineering Visiting Council, and from Batten Engineering College staff member Sue Cotton Smith.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the Solar Decathlon challenges teams of university students to design, build and operate the most affordable, attractive and energy-efficient solar-powered house.

The 20 contest finalists include teams from China, Belgium, Canada and schools from all over the United States. They were chosen by a panel of engineers, scientists and experts from DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Unit 6 Unplugged is envisioned as part of a six-unit, multifamily infill building for a central city site, with energy efficiency features such as a deep, shaded balcony that incorporates operable windows so it can be converted into a sunspace in cold weather, super-tight insulation, and solar thermal and electric power collection systems.

The team is well under way on its various tasks, and is showcasing its design throughout the next 12 months under the guidance of their faculty advisors from engineering and architecture.

The Team Tidewater design studio near the ODU campus was one of the stops on the Hampton Roads Solar Tour in September. Team members have displayed the Unit 6 Unplugged design at events such as ODU football tailgate parties in the university's engineering building, Kaufman Hall.

The team also exhibited the physical model of the home during the Governor's Conference on Energy October 12-14 in Richmond. Team Tidewater Virginia is the only team from the state chosen among the 20 finalists this year.

In November, Team Tidewater members will travel to St. Stephen's & St. Agnes School in Alexandria, Va., to make a presentation as part of the school's sustainability conference.Early in January, team members will attend the International Builders' Show in Orlando, Fla. In February, the Unit 6 Unplugged design will be displayed at the Sustainable Living Fair at ODU's Webb Center.

And all the time, team members will continue their work designing and preparing to build their home. They will transport it to the National Mall for its worldwide exposure next fall.

For more information about Solar Decathlon, Team Tidewater and Unit 6 Unplugged, visit the ODU/HU group's website at http://teamtidewater.odu.edu/.


This article was posted on: October 12, 2010

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