The Catholic University of America

April 23, 2013

Solar Decathlon Team Invites D.C. High School Students to Help Build Home


Craig Bender and Bobby Blabolil from Team Capitol DC show Cardozo High School students samples of reclaimed wood.

Several members of Team Capitol DC visited Francis L. Cardozo High School in Washington, D.C., last week to invite high school students to help build furniture for Harvest House, a home being built on CUA’s campus for the 2013 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon competition.

Faculty adviser Bill Jelen, recent graduate from the Master of Sustainable Design program Bobby Blabolil, and sophomore Craig Bender represented CUA during the visit.

“In addition to designing a cutting-edge prototype of a net-zero home for the Solar Decathlon competition, we are also charged by the Department of Energy to communicate and express our passion to the public,” says Jelen, a lecturer in the School of Architecture. A net-zero home is one that produces as much energy as it requires.

“Working with Cardozo High School is one of the many ways we are attempting to reach out and broaden the impact of Team Capitol DC while engaging students in the clean energy future,” he adds. “What better place to start than with the next generation of architecture students and construction leaders?”

Many of the half dozen high school students who attended the meeting had previously visited the building site on CUA’s campus. The students are part of Cardozo’s Academy of Construction and Design.

Two Team Capitol DC members from George Washington University presented the plans for interior and landscape design, and invited the high school students to design and build a storage system for the bathroom and two benches for an outdoor patio space.

Cardoza students look at photos of possible bench designs.

“How many of you have used a bathroom before?” Jelen asked, as he grabbed the attention of the students. “You, therefore, are qualified to design what a person might need in their bathroom.”

In addition to designing something that is visually pleasing and fits with other design themes in the house, students must also keep in mind that the storage must be ADA accessible because the team is planning to donate their house to a wounded veteran.

Some students excitedly began brainstorming on the spot. One shared the idea of incorporating a turntable to hold supplies so that a person in a wheelchair might be able to reach things in the back of a cabinet easier.

The teenagers were also asked to design and build a pair of benches that will be placed in a courtyard, and the CUA team members brought samples of reclaimed wood they have processed so the younger students would have an idea of how the rest of the house is being designed.

Students at Cardozo will have a month to brainstorm and draw their designs. Jelen and his students plan to meet with them again in May.



ABOUT TEAM CAPITOL DC: For the first time, a city-wide Washington, D.C., collegiate team – Catholic University (CUA), George Washington University (GWU) and American University (AU) – will compete as Team Capitol DC in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013. Follow the team’s progress online:

Twitter: @TeamCapitolDC

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