I thought I would take a crack at “lightening” everyone’s mood a little bit by reflecting on the long road behind us, rather than the short stressful one ahead.
It seems rather amazing to me that over a year ago we first heard the words ’solar’ and ‘decathlon’ used in the same phrase. At this point I almost do not remember a time when The Solar Decathlon was not my entire life, but maybe that is a good thing.
The project started in early June, 2006 with a few emails and informal meetings. Those of us that had not secured an internship going into the summer of ‘06 decided that working on a ‘little’ school project might be fun. Reflecting back it is amazing to me how little progress we made initially. True we spent lots of time researching, and lots of time learning, but given our current rate of progress the stuff we did last year was child’s play. Of the people that worked that summer only about 4 of us remain on the project . I think any one of us would tell you that the sense of urgency and the magnitude of what we were setting out on had definitely not settled in. Last summer was a lot of fund raising, networking, appliance selecting, material research, planning, and architectural structuring. The sad part is that none of those ‘finalized’ plans ended up being anywhere close to our final product. I still see pictures of our original house-plan floating around on the internet. I can’t help but chuckle when I see the long rectangular box dreampt up in that first summer.
Throughout the school year the team struggled to find its center. We had people come and go, great ideas, bad ideas, ideas in between. Looking back, I feel like we were all over the place, and yet one thing remained constant: we started becoming a cohesive team. I think the major accomplishment over the first year of the project was that we learned how to be a team of diverse, opinionated, and competent people that came together to create a house. We learned how to deal with one another, how to accomplish goals, how to work together, and ultimately we practiced and practiced the art of engineering and communication.
The project became a thousand times easier once we finally decided on a floor plan. If any team considering entering the Solar Decathlon in 2009 reads this blog, I would highly suggest sticking to a floor plan the first July of the competition. It was very difficult for the SCU team to do this, especially given our lack of an architecture school. This made finding the architectural mentoring and our learning process difficult. The nice thing about not finalizing the design until March, is that we went through so many iterations that this final version definitely makes the most sense for our project, the obvious down-side, however, was that construction did not start until June.
I wont give away too much of what is going on now. There is still a small competitive advantage to keeping our cards hidden. I know that, like us, all the teams out there are working very hard, and are extremely proud of what they are doing. Rightfully so, every competitor has a lot to brag about. What I am here to brag about today is the long, grueling road behind all of us. To get to where we are now, some amazing people have put in some super-human work, learned more than any class could teach, fought, cried, laughed, and ultimately formed a tight-knit team. I am so proud to have been a part of this process. I am so lucky to be involved with so many great people. For me, this project has been the hardest test of endurance in my life, but I know that it is one of the best experiences I will every have. More importantly, I know that there are some amazing friendships from this experience that I will never let go of.
I hope this brings a little sunny disposition to anyone reading this. I especially want to encourage the other teams out there. Santa Clara knows exactly how you feel right now. The long road behind us is definitely longer than the one ahead of us. I am excited about D.C. and putting our team and our design to the test.