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Published: Saturday, February 11, 2012

Updated: Sunday, February 12, 2012 17:02

As the second semester of the 2011- 2012 academic year begins, we have received some very exciting news: Norwich University has been selected to participate in the next U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, which will be held in the fall of 2013 at Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California.

This is a wonderful opportunity for Norwich to compete on the international stage against 20 student-teams from some very prestigious colleges and universities, including Stanford University, California Institute of Technology, Middlebury, University of Southern California, Stevens Institute of Technology, and teams from Canada and the Czech Republic.

The Solar Decathlon challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.

This is Norwich's first invitation to participate in the Solar Decathlon, which started in 2002 and has occurred biennially since 2005. Our students submitted a proposal for the 2011 event, and their plan received a "competitive" rating, but Norwich did not make the final cut in the selection process.

The teams involved in the Solar Decathlon spend almost two years creating the structures to compete in 10 contests. The competitions are in the areas of architecture, market appeal, engineering, communications, affordability, comfort zone, hot water, appliances, home entertainment, and energy balance.

The purpose of the Solar Decathlon is to educate students and the public about the cost-saving opportunities presented by clean energy products, demonstrate to the public the opportunities presented by cost-effective houses that combine energy efficient construction and appliances with renewable energy systems that are available today, and to provide participating students with unique training that prepares them to enter the nation's clean-energy workforce.

Our faculty have done an excellent job of preparing students to compete, writing a proposal and experimenting for the past two years with construction and design work.

The Solar Decathlon is truly a team effort at Norwich. It entails the combined effort of students and staff from various departments, including engineering management, civil and environmental engineering, electrical and computer engineering, mechanical engineering, computing, business management, geology and environmental science, communications and political science.

We will keep you apprised of Norwich's progress during the next 18 months of preparations for the 2013 Solar Decathlon.

On another topic, we are in the process of reviewing and updating our strategic plan NU2019 which was originally approved in 2004. As part of this process we are looking at all aspects of the University, including our buildings and campus.

As we prepare to map out the future of Norwich University, I want to be sure that we are utilizing the facilities at the school to our greatest advantage. I have asked Vice President Frank Vanecek to set up a committee to explore the use of student space on campus. I anticipate that the committee membership will include students, and that the committees will reach out to the general student population for their input on this important subject.

It is great to have you back from break. I hope everyone is well-rested and ready to meet the academic challenges of the second semester.

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