Emily Vandivert, a 2009 graduate of Maryville High School, recently took part in a groundbreaking ceremony for the Missouri University of Science & Technology's entry in a solar house competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.
The department holds the Solar Decathlon event every other year, and Missouri S&T, a University of Missouri campus located in Rolla, is the only school in the country to have been invited to five of the six contests that have taken place so far.
Vandivert is a senior at the university majoring in architectural engineering. The daughter of Richard and Tammy Vandivert, Maryville, she is also the project manager for her school's 60-person contest team, which has dubbed its project "Chameleon House."
"It's called the Chameleon House because it's a completely adaptable environment," Vandivert said. "The exterior can change with the seasons, and the interior can completely transform into whatever space the tenant might need."
The S&T team is one of only two from the midwest. The other comprises students from three colleges in Kentucky and Indiana that banded together for the competition.
Teams are judged in ten categories: architecture, engineering, market appeal, communications, affordability, comfort zone, appliances, hot water, home entertainment and energy balance.
After building their solar homes, the student teams ship them in pieces to Irvine, Calif., and reassemble them for the decathlon.
Once the competition is over, the Missouri house will be transported back to Rolla, reassembled for a second time on campus and made available for someone to live in.
The four homes university students built for previous competitions make up the the campus' "Solar Village."
Individuals and families live in the homes, and give the university feedback about things that need to be changed or improved.
The houses built so far use solar panels to create energy during the daytime, some of which the university sells back to a local utility company. At night, the residences siphon off what electricity they need from the grid.
Various student-designed modifications mean the structures use far less electricity that traditional houses.
Decathlon judging will take place in California Oct. 3-13, 2013. Student teams will travel to Irvine in September of next year to assemble their entries.
To offset the cost of building a solar house, the S&T students are currently seeking to raise about $500,000, enough to cover construction, travel and shipping.
Anyone interested in supporting the project should go to the S&T Solar Decathlon website at www.solarhouse.mst.edu.