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Solar Decathlon

OSU SD Update Day 15-16

brandon's picture

Submitted by brandon

Submitted on Fri, 09/30/2011 - 12:01

Another update from our advisor Dr. Mark Walter:

A lot has happened since our last update, but we are still in 2nd place overall. Maryland is in first place with a 7+ point lead and Purdue is just behind us but by only 2.8 points. Yikes! There are still 300 points to be allocated in 3 more contests (Communications, Energy Balance, and Market Appeal), and there are still about 30 points to be obtained from measured contests. Nonetheless, it would appear that Maryland's lead is insurmountable. The spread in juried contests has not been large and as has been the case throughout the competition, we, Maryland, and Purdue have been careful not to drop any measured contest points. 

The energy balance could shake things up, but it would most likely hurt us significantly and not Maryland or Purdue. Purdue has a -12.9 kWh deficit, Maryland is at -17.3 kWh, and we are at -29 kWh. Yesterday's sun was decent, and everyone was net-positive for the day. Maryland and Purdue have bigger solar arrays than us and did better. More sun is predicted for today, but our energy balance will be really, really close. We need to produce about 40kWh in order to be able to run all contests and be net-zero for the week. Here is the bad news: for every 1 kWh negative, we loose two points! We may have to move into damage-control mode and drop some contests in order to lose the least number of points overall. 

With Purdue having the smallest deficit and the largest array, if the sun does not shine, they could jump into first place. If it is mostly sunny but we do not make enough power, Purdue will almost certainly move into 2nd place. Sci-Arc/Caltech is also lurking in 4th place (about 12 points behind us) with an even smaller deficit. At the same time, it is currently anyone's guess how many points we will get from the Communications and Market Appeal contests. As you can imagine, this is all quite nerve wracking. The team is pretty exhausted, but by 7:00 pm tonight we will have done all we can. The overall winner will be announced between 2:30 and 3:30 on Saturday. It is like we are close to finishing an ultra-marathon. 

Here are some highlights (and low-lights) from Days 15 and 16. 

On Day 15 President Gee visited the house in the early afternoon. Dr. Gee continues to be a big supporter of our project and thanked the students for so capably representing OSU on the national/international stage. We were all re-energized by this visit. Unfortunately shortly after Dr. Gee's departure the Architecture Contest awards were announced. OSU placed 11th (which we all know is grossly unfair!). With Maryland's first place finish, they vaulted into first place by a significant margin.  Purdue was even further back in Architecture and fell to a close 3rd. Naturally the team was quite down from this result. Nonetheless, they prepared for the final dinner contest. Check out this menu:

  • Appetizer: Amish cheeses and Fruit plate
  • Salad: Fall Spinach Salad
  • Main Course: Herb roasted pork tenderloin and garlic herb vegetables
  • Dessert: Apple Blueberry Crumble

With careful thought the traditional cooking time for this menu was cut by approximately 90 minutes. What an effort! I had to stay out stay out on the porch and suffer through the wonderful smells coming out of enCORE. Unfortunately (again), our decathlon neighbors are a tough crowed (statistically much tougher than the rest of the village) and we were again not rated well for our dinner effort. For the two dinner parties and the one movie night OSU had the lowest score in the village. It appears that there has been some gamesmanship going on here, and we will be suggesting that the organizers find a fairer way to judge this part of the contest. In any other part of the village I have no doubt that we would have scored in the top 3 for dinners and the movie. The end of Day 15 did bring some good news. Purdue made a major mistake in a water draw and dropped 6 points. Even more astounding, Maryland missed a cooking (water boiling) activity and dropped 5 points . We went to bed feeling like we were still in the running. (More on these "mistakes" by Purdue and Maryland in a moment.)

Day 16 was a fairly typical day again. Comfort zone until 10:00 AM, public touring from 10:00-2:00, and comfort zone from 3 until the next day. At various points between 3:00 and 10:30 we needed to run the dishwasher, do a double laundry load, turn all lights on, run the TV and DVD player, and do two hot water draws. As indicated earlier, the sun was out for most of the day and we produced more than we used. In addition, all the hot water was free from our solar thermal hot plate collector ... thank you sun. The team (except for Matt O'Kelly who continues to keep enCORE running as efficiently as possible) went to Gordon Biersch to use a very generous and thoughtful gift certificate from Carol Whitacre (OSU VP for Research). At some point overnight Maryland got back the 5 points that they lost in the Day 15 cooking contest and Purdue got their points back from the hot water draw that they supposedly missed missed on Day 15. We are not sure what happened, but in anycase, this gave Maryland a bigger lead and brought Purdue back up to a close 3rd.

Looking ahead, we have public touring today and will then be doing our last water boil, load of laundry, and hot water draws. The communications contest result will be announced around 2:30. The energy balance will end at 7:00; regardless of where we stand, it will be nice to remove this energy balance stress from our lives! We have been saying that when we get back to Columbus we might still be afraid to open the doors to our houses/apartments lest the humidity and temperature are effected and the mechanical systems have to work harder. From 7:00-10:00 there is a team open house which is a chance to relax and interact with all the other teams. Stay tuned for the remaining results and final standing.