Summer Construction Preview


The College is hosting 21 students this summer to continue work on the 2013 Middlebury Solar Decathlon submission InSite. The house will have its first showing in August and then be dismantled and shipped to California for October’s competition.

By Owen Teach

As the spring semester winds down, the 2013 Middlebury Solar Decathlon team’s work is just beginning. Twenty-one team members, comprised of students and recent graduates, are set to begin work the day after Memorial Day (May 28) to complete the design and construction of the InSite house before an “East Coast” showing set for the first weekend in August. The house will then be dismantled into shippable panels before it travels by rail for reassembly during the competition in Irvine, Calif. in early October.

Constructing the house is only one of the goals for the summer, however, as the team also faces a mountain of logistical tasks to prepare the house to compete in the competition. These range from developing informational materials for tours during the two-week public exhibition phase of the contest to deciding whether or not to drill microscopic holes into the house’s windows so that they don’t crack because of pressure change while traveling over the Rocky Mountains en route to Irvine.

Despite the seemingly endless list of tasks, however, Cordy Newbury ’13 is satisfied with the work that has been done thus far.

“We have done remarkable work in beginning the construction and waterproofing the house; we have also raised three fourths of our project budget and we have set up strong outreach outlets,” said Newbury. “This summer we will have much more time to dedicate each week, meaning we will be more efficient in our work and be able to expand our outreach efforts. Keeping up with the construction schedule will be our biggest challenge as well as preparing for our upcoming deliverable on public exhibition materials.”

One of the ways the team has dealt with complicated logistics is to have certain students become “experts” in particular areas. Rita Croce ’14.5, one of the students here for the summer working on construction, has spent her semester becoming the team’s lead on window design and installation.

“Before this semester I worked out the outreach team and was not involved at all in construction and design,” said Croce. “I got some drawings that a kid had worked on before me, and had to work to understand them by talking to people and watching YouTube videos. When I started to draw them, I started to learn what all that gibberish meant. Then, after starting to build them you learn ‘oh that line means this’ and it all starts to make sense.”

Croce also sees window installation as being one of the largest challenges for the team moving forward.

“I think that windows will be a big challenge because the installation will be detailed and logistics can be a bit of a nightmare,” she said. “This includes shipping and packing the windows in boxes to be shipped to Irvine.”

More than just the house itself, team logistical coordinators also have to prepare for the dozens of Middlebury students that will travel out to the competition. This fall, students can participate in one of four one-week shifts to construct, display and then de-construct the house during its stay in California.

As time counts down to the competition in Irvine, the team has its work cut out.