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WNEU Engineering Students Finish Strong in Solar Decathlon 


SPRINGFIELD — Engineering students from Western New England University (WNEU) traveled to the campus of the University del Valle in Cali, Colombia, in late November to complete construction of team PANAMASS’ 800-square-foot, fully solar-powered home, as part of the inaugural Solar Decathlon Latin America and Caribbean 2015 competition.

Team PANAMASS’ entry is called the SMART house, which is based on five characteristics in its design: sustainable, modular, recyclable, aesthetic, and tropical. After 10 days of intense evaluation by a several panels of judges, the SMART house was awarded first place in Energy Efficiency and third place in Energy Balance.

This competition, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Colombian government, challenges university student teams around the world to design and build sustainable houses based on innovation and clean-energy technologies. Team PANAMASS is a partnership made up of students and faculty from Western New England University and Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá. There were 15 teams representing nine countries, including Panama, Peru, Mexico, Colombia, Uruguay, Spain, Germany, England, and the U.S. WNEU was the only participant representing the U.S.

Five Western New England University students and Engineering Professor Kenneth Lee were in Colombia for the construction phase of the house. Students include civil engineering senior Andres Otero and juniors Brian Wodecki, Jhonatan Escobar, Gabby Fosdick, and Katrina DiGloria. This competition provided the students with a unique international experience to work alongside with faculty and students from Tecnológica de Panamá and to experience Colombian culture for two weeks.

This solar decathlon embraced a theme of social-justice housing and encouraged designs built for tropical climates in high-density urban locations, and the use of recycled materials, affordability, optimal energy production, and maximum efficiency. The SMART house is built with recycled shipping containers and includes three bedrooms and one bathroom.

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