Engineering students use green building techniques to earn first place in competition
THE SANTA CLARA
October 20, 2016
After over a year of imagining, planning and constructing, the Santa Clara rEvolve House team won first place at a statewide tiny house competition in Sacramento, Calif. over the weekend. A group of 27 students successfully constructed a self-sufficient structure and was eager to display their house on wheels in a competition with nine other California institutions.
“I think we all felt pretty good about our chances,” said faculty advisor Timothy Hight. “We thought we built a really nice house and it had some interesting aspects to it.”
Arranged by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) over two years ago, the competition inspired Santa Clara students to showcase elements of sustainability in their own tiny package.
The 238-foot home is less than a tenth of the size of the average single-family American home, but offers all of the features necessary for a fully-functioning living space. Eight solar panels power the home while its unique insulation make the tiny house drastically more eco-friendly than a traditional housing structure.
Student involvement, both at the undergraduate and graduate level, has driven the rEvolve project—the team is made up entirely of Santa Clara students and faculty.
“I was excited to join because I wanted to apply my new knowledge of engineering to the real world,” said sophomore team member Matt LoGrasso.
Accountability and leadership were crucial to the project’s success, and in the final month before the competition, members of the team labored long hours to put the finishing touches on the already intricate structure.
“Everyone stepped up to be a leader amongst themselves,” said mechanical team leader Marcus Grassi. “We were all on the same page, and we just got it done.”
Project-based learning is being embraced more widely by schools across the nation as students are taking what they learn inside the classroom and applying their knowledge to practical situations they will face in the workforce.
“(A) huge skill I have taken away from my participation in Tiny House is being resourceful when contacting professionals regarding certain aspects of design,” LoGrasso said.
In April of this year, the team suffered a tragic loss with the passing of Fr. James Reites, S.J. Reites was a beloved faculty member and an advisor for the rEvolve house team.
“Throughout the competition we’ve dedicated this house to Fr. Reites,” Grassi said. “Losing him was just something that motivated us even further to finish the house. Not just finish it, but to do it to the best of our ability.”
Now that the competition is over, the house will be donated to nonprofit organization Operation Freedom Paws. It will provide the group with additional housing for guests staying at their facility in San Martin, Calif. The charity pairs veterans with dogs with the goal of easing physical difficulties and psychological stress from time in combat.
Faced with adversity following the passing of Reites, the rEvolve team’s resilience was on full display as they captured the touted first place prize. In the coming years, Santa Clara will look to future engineering students to design and lead similar projects.
“The students develop such a relationship with the project and with each other,” Hight said. “The team becomes the house and the house becomes the team.”
Contact John Lambert at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.