ME Students Shine at Solar Decathlon - Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo

ME Students Shine at Solar Decathlon

Three Cal Poly students — Sanjit Joshi, Julien Blarel and Cristina Paquin — led the mechanical engineering aspects of Cal Poly’s vision of the solar-powered home of the future at one of the most prestigious sustainable housing competitions in the world.

Cal Poly finished third overall among 14 sun-powered homes at the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015 at Orange County Great Park in Irvine, Calif. last fall.

Judges and spectators were wowed by Solar Cal Poly’s 1,000squarefoot INhouse, with its 15-foot folding window-wall between living room and outdoor patio, built by a multidisciplinary team of engineering, architecture, business, science and graphic communication students.

“It was very real world,” said Mechanical Engineering Professor Kim Shollenberger, one of the team’s faculty advisors. “The most important part of this competition for me was the opportunity to help launch dozens of careers in the alternative energy industry. This project was the perfect tool for getting students excited about emerging technologies and then giving them the experience critical for entering into this field. In particular, this is the generation that’s going to have to confront global warming and as an engineering professor, it’s my most significant goal to give them the skills to do that.”

In addition to its architectural appeal, the INhouse’s design reflected an array of engineering factors that ensure structural integrity, ease of assembly, safety, durability, heat loss, building codes and integration within and among other systems.

“For instance, of particular importance was the level of integration required of the water systems team,” said Shollenberger. “They dictated use of the grey water captured by the plumbing system, and directly coordinated supply conditions and requirements with the overall team. A black-grey connection valve was designed for the plumbing system to easily divert water away from water systems as necessary. Sewage pumps were designed into the system to allow flow into grey water and septic tanks above grade. And that was just one aspect of the INhouse.”

The breadth and scope of the mechanical engineering considerations required for the project were reflected in the sheer number of section leaders: Robert Burtt, Tyler Dunaway and Chris Lutze, plumbing systems; Lauren Jones, Jake Morris and Zach Yasuda, water systems; Timothy Ambrose, Mateo Begue and Andrew Elliott, instrumentation and control; Patrick Fillingham, Wesley Goodson and Kenneth Li, structural insulated panel design; and James Cornish, Jake Cosmo and Patrick Weston, HVAC.

In addition to Shollenberger, other Cal Poly Engineering faculty advisors included John Clements (Computer Science) and Dale Dolan (Electrical Engineering).

About the Solar Decathlon

The Solar Decathlon educates students and the public about environmental benefits and money-saving opportunities presented by clean-energy products and design solutions; demonstrates to the public the comfort and affordability of homes that combine energy-efficient construction and appliances with renewable energy systems available today; and provides participating students with unique training that prepares them to enter the nation’s clean-energy workforce.

Related links

Solar Cal Poly

Solar Decathlon