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Students welcome hundreds to see inside solar house

by Judy Hughes, communications and marketing last modified Aug 28, 2013 09:38 AM

A steady crowd estimated at more than 500 took advantage of an Aug. 24 open house to get a preview of what judges will see in early October—a combined Kentucky-Indiana effort to take the honors in the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2013 Solar Decathlon.

Students welcome hundreds to see inside solar house

Phoenix House was open to the public Saturday. It will head to California for an international competition in October.

UofL and Ball State University students fielded questions from people who toured the energy-efficient, two-bedroom Phoenix House designed to serve as a permanent housing solution after natural disasters. The event was good practice for students who’ll make the trek to California this fall to reassemble and present the solar-powered structure at the international contest site in Irvine, Calif., where 20 homes will be judged Oct. 3 ‒ 13.

“It’s kind of emotional for me,” said Kelsey King, the UofL mechanical engineering graduate student leading Team Kentuckiana, which also includes University of Kentucky. “It was amazing to see all the people who came out. It’s so much fun.” King saw the 2009 competition in Washington, D.C., and has been working toward UofL’s participation ever since; she did her preliminary research and development, which ultimately led to the team’s successful proposal to compete, at UofL’s Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research.

Mark McGinley, UofL civil and environmental engineering professor, estimated the project has involved close to 200 students and faculty, staff and community involvement from donors to technicians working alongside the student crews. He and Jim Graham, UofL electrical and computer engineering professor, are the project’s faculty leaders and will also travel to California.

Speed School of Engineering Dean Neville Pinto complimented the community’s generosity toward the project, including GE Appliances, which contributed the home’s Energy Star appliances as well as its engineers’ help; Henderson Services, which worked on installing many energy-efficient elements critical to the project; and Mercer Transportation Co., which will help truck the home to California. Sponsors ranged from Kentucky and Indiana companies to New York’s Resource Furniture, which supplied modular furnishings for the compact design.

“This is a very special house. I am sure we are going to do very well with this entry,” said Guillermo Vasquez de Velasco, dean of Ball State’s College of Architecture and Planning. “We’re going to do a lot of good with this project.”

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