Santa Clara University Students Tap Silicon Valley Tool to Teach Solar Power

Live video chats teach the kids about what goes into designing and building a solar home, and allow the elementary students to ask questions.

SANTA CLARA, Calif., Jun 10, 2013 -- Santa Clara University engineering students are holding monthly Google+ Hangouts On Air with elementary schoolers in Irvine, Calif. These live video chats teach the kids about what goes into designing and building a solar home, and allow the elementary students to ask questions. The SCU Solar Decathlon team is building a 1,000 square foot home on the SCU campus before loading it on trucks and hauling it to Irvine for the Department of Energy competition this October.


Plaza Vista School teacher Scott Bedley first approached the team to talk to his class in January. Since then, hundreds of people have watched the hangouts both live and archived and several additional schools are participating.

"I'm so thankful the team from SCU agreed to inspire not only my class, but now together we are reaching many others in the process," says Bedley.

The fifth graders have learned about how the solar panels work and taken a "virtual field trip" of the mechanical room of SCU's Solar Decathlon 2009 entry "Refract House." The mechanical room holds the systems that control the heating and cooling, convert solar energy, run electrical panels, and monitor the entire house.

"We told the kids the mechanical room is like the home's brain," says Assistant Project Manager Nicole Pal, a junior at SCU. "It's fun to breakdown these complicated concepts and we've been delighted that the students have caught on so fast. Sometimes they ask questions that better help us understand what we're doing."

The next hangout, June 13, will feature a key component of the 2013 Radiant House: bamboo. Santa Clara University is paving the way in using bamboo, a more sustainable material than traditional timber, for infrastructure and not just aesthetic value. The Solar Decathlon team will show how they turn the fast growing tube-like grass into the walls and joists that hold up the house.

Watch the next Google+ Hangout On Air live Thursday, June 13 at 9 a.m. http://sd13.scu.edu/hangouts.php

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