The Catholic University of America

June 21, 2012

Students Design Solar Powered Bus Stop Shelters


Students Tim Laubacker and Matt Kean (center) present their winning model to Associate Professor Chris Grech (left), director of the Master of Science in Sustainable Design program, and Randall Ott (right), dean of the School of Architecture and Planning.

Following the success of the solar picnic table design competition in 2010, this spring students were presented with the challenge of creating visible and comfortable solar-powered shelters where people can wait for University shuttles. The contest was created to make public transportation a more attractive option to University students, faculty, staff, and visitors. 

Matthew Kline of Annapolis, Md., Tim Laubacker of Tonawondo, N.Y, and Matt Kean of Medway, Mass., created the winning design for this second solar design competition. Kline is a rising senior seeking a double major in civil engineering and architecture. Laubacker earned his degree in architecture in 2012. Kean is a rising junior studying electrical engineering.

“All teams created excellent designs with professional presentations of their work but the Kline, Laubacker, and Kean design incorporated the majority of the contest elements into their bus shelter design,” said Brian Alexander, director of energy and environmental systems at Catholic University.

Projects were judged on their architecture and aesthetics; marketability, functionality and innovation; safety; and on how well the team members worked together. The winning team was awarded $3,000.

Kline says he and his teammates decided to participate in the competition because “students rarely get the opportunity to design something that has the possibility to get built.

“It was also a good chance for us to work on the project as if it were a real world contest,” he says. “Our design had to be presented to real clients and not just our professors. This meant that for the first time, our actual design was being judged, instead of our ability to design.”

The contest challenged students to create shelters that are easy to find, well lit, and designed to provide information on the shuttle bus service on campus. They also must function without using any outside power sources — solar panels and batteries were suggested materials.

A model of the winning design.  

The winning design proposes a structure made of lightweight concrete and aluminum and wood louvers. It is topped with a solar panel that operates LED light strips and an E ink information display panel (similar to the display screen of many black and white e-book readers).

According to the University’s new 15-year Master Plan, CUA is committed to reducing the number of cars carrying a single person to campus by 5 percent. Alexander says he hopes that if people see shuttle stops that are protected from the weather, they will be more inclined to leave their cars at home and use public transportation.

Four teams of students participated in the competition. Judges included representatives from the University, Fentress Architects, Standard Solar, and Washington Gas Energy Services.

“These solar design competitions truly show the caliber of students at CUA and the University’s commitment to their education,” said Andy Hershberger, competition judge and project manager at Standard Solar.

For more information on Catholic University’s sustainability efforts, visit



More news from CUA