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Cornell team chosen to enter 2007 Solar Decathlon; students are needed to design and build sun-powered house

Come one, come all and help Cornell build another award-winning solar house for the National Mall.

Cornell University, which came in second place last October in Washington, D.C., in the 2005 Solar Decathlon -- a competition to design and build energy-efficient solar homes -- has been chosen to enter one of 20 teams for the 2007 biennial competition.

The teams were judged on their proposals submitted to the U.S. Department of Energy, which sponsors the competition and awards $100,000 to each team to prepare entries over the next two years. That award is up sharply from the $5,000 granted to the previous team two years ago.

"We had 20 students author the proposal to get us into the competition and expect around 60 students once the spring semester gets going," said Bernardo Menezes, a sophomore in operations research and industrial engineering and a project manager of Cornell's new solar decathlon team. "Our team will start designing the house as soon as we get back to school."

Typically, students can earn up to three credits a semester working on the solar decathlon team by enrolling in the course Special Investigations in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (M&AE 490), taught by the team's faculty adviser, Zellman Warhaft, professor of M&AE. The course, which meets once a week for variable credit, is not only intended for engineering students but also for students from any major to work on non-engineering aspects of the project, such as handling finances, soliciting donations, developing publicity plans, designing the Web site and conducting outreach activities. Architecture students, however, will work with Nick Rajkovich, visiting assistant professor of architecture, to develop the architectural design of the house in a studio he teaches this semester.

Cornell will compete against student teams from universities in 12 other states as well as Puerto Rico, Canada, Germany and Spain in the fall of 2007 when the teams converge with their homes on the National Mall and compete in 10 categories related to the energy efficiency, design, building, operation and comfort of their totally solar-powered houses. Each house must generate enough energy from the sun to operate a household, a home-based business and related transportation needs.

Cornell student team leaders include Andrew Chessen (MS&E '08), Afra Farry (Arch '08), Siobhan Rockcastle (Arch '08) and Bernardo Menezes. Bryan Wolin (A&S '08) is the communications director.


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