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The Return of Team Tidewater

The partnership between Old Dominion University and Hampton University on last year's Department of Energy Solar Decathlon was so successful that the two schools have teamed up again.

On Jan. 26, Team Tidewater, composed of engineering students from ODU and architecture students from HU, was announced as a finalist for the 2013 Solar Decathlon, to be held in Orange County Great Park in Irvine, Calif.

Twenty colleges and universities from the United States, Canada and Europe will compete in the event, where teams attempt to design and build the best net zero energy home, to be judged in categories such as energy efficiency and marketability.

Team Tidewater finished in 14th place in the 2011 Solar Decathlon finals in Washington, D.C. The team's experimental home, known as Unit 6 Unplugged, will soon be relocated to a permanent site at 47th Street and Killam Avenue on the ODU campus. It will serve as the permanent home of ODU's Sustainable Development Institute, part of the Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology, and act as a testing lab and showroom for alternative energy technologies.

Canopy House, the name chosen for Team Tidewater's entry in Solar Decathlon 2013, will be designed as an energy-efficient home that is simple to control, allowing it to be tailored to the needs of the disabled.

The two lead advisers for the project, Mujde Erten-Unal, associate professor of civil engineering at ODU, and David Peronnet, professor of architecture at Hampton, were also advisers for Team Tidewater's entry in last year's competition.

Erten-Unal said it's daunting to think about all the work that lies ahead.

"It's quite an enterprise," she said. "But our last entry in Solar Decathlon helped form lasting links between the Batten College of Engineering and Technology at ODU and the architecture school at Hampton University. It was a great experience, and we're happy to do it again."

Many of the students who comprised the initial Team Tidewater have indicated a willingness to sign on for another Solar Decathlon campaign.

Three other ODU faculty members have pledged to serve as advisers - Shirshak Dhali, professor and chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Gene Hou, professor of mechanical engineering; and Nathan Luetke, senior lecturer of engineering technology.

Peronnet, who is the principal investigator (PI) for the team, said Team Tidewater "is excited to reinvest its creativity and talent in the Solar Decathlon. The students, faculty and administration had a great training exercise in Solar Decathlon 2011 and are prepared to finish strong in 2013. We look forward to working on the new site, alongside the other teams, and to bring awareness of energy solutions to everyone, especially the disabled."

Oktay Baysal, dean of the Batten College, congratulated the students on being selected as a 2013 team finalist. He also spoke about the importance of the 2011 Solar Decathlon house finding a permanent home on the ODU campus.

"What this permanent site represents is the institutionalization of sustainable development. It's not on our campus just for the duration of the competition," Baysal said. "We want to use this physical space to experiment, expand and explore, and for others to see that sustainable development is not just practical, it can be interesting and beautiful."

Throughout the nearly two-year-long Solar Decathlon process, the teams will design, construct and test their homes before reassembling them at the competition site. As part of the event, teams compete in 10 different categories - ranging from best architecture and engineering to energy production for heating and cooling - while gaining valuable real-world experience in a growing global industry.

Among the other schools selected for the 2013 Solar Decathlon are a few repeat entries, such as Middlebury College from Vermont and the University of Calgary, along with new teams from Stanford University, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and the Vienna University of Technology from Austria.