Appalachian students compete for spot on European decathlon team


Michelle Pierce

Senior building science major Tony Washington works on his seventh concept model in a Katherine Harper lab. Appalachian State University was one of the three American universities to be chosen for the 2014 Solar Decathlon in Versailles, France. Michelle Pierce | The Appalachian
After Appalachian State University was invited as one of the three American universities to attend Europe’s Solar Decathlon 2014, competition has stirred among the students for their ideas to be used in the university’s student-built, solar-powered and multi-family homestead.

The final project will be taken to the Solar Decathlon showcase in Versailles, France where assistant professors Jamie Russell and Jason Miller will be leading the students participating.

“We will need the students who can put the planned design together, students who can operate the building and students who can act as tour guides,” Russell said.

Right now, the program has only raised enough money for the travel of 20 students, who will be known as solar decathletes, Russell said.

Senior Audrey Burton is currently working on her board layouts for her own interpretation of an energy-efficient house for the competition, along with 26 other building science majors at Appalachian.

These students spend approximately 30 hours a week, sometimes pulling all-nighters, in the Katherine Harper Hall studio to work on their design.

“Katherine Harper is pretty much our second home,” said Burton, a building science and appropriate technology major.

Senior building science major Tony Washington is working on his seventh concept model.

“It’s a tweaking process and it’s all about keeping up with the main goals of the project,” Washington said.

A student can be a decathlete up to six months after they graduate if they chose, Burton said.

The 26 students will show their conceptual designs Friday, Feb. 22 in Katherine Harper.

Faculty members and local corporations who have sponsored the Solar Decathlon in the past, such as Mountain Television Network, will review the small public event.

“They understand it’s an ideas competition, meaning we’ll be pulling ideas from their work and synthesize them for the decathlon,” Miller said.

The final evaluation of the students’ models will occur later in the semester by a steering committee composed of several university faculty members including both Russell and Miller.

“The competition is what keeps us motivated, but we’re all still friends,” Burton said.

Story & Photo: MICHELLE PIERCE, Intern News Reporter