The house that Colby and friends built

Agnes Hapka

September 10, 2013

NEW HAVEN — It’s not every day you get to take a house 2,500 across the country, but that’s exactly what Colby Davis and his cohort are doing in a couple of weeks.

Davis, who is a New Haven native and now attends West Virginia University’s Morgantown campus, is traveling to Irvine, Calif. with a team from the university. They’ll be taking with them the sustainable solar home they built to compete in the US Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon.

Davis is majoring in electrical engineering, and has been a member of the decathlon team since January. For the first few months he was involved with the design side of things.

“Then we began building in May,” he said.

Davis said another student saw a decathlon in progress while traveling, and that was when the idea for the school to compete was born.

“He came back to WVU and started talking to people about entering,” said Davis. “The school put in a proposal to the Department of Energy and it was accepted.”

When Davis heard about it, he was intrigued.

“It sounded really interesting,” Davis said, adding that the skills he picked up the process have been invaluable. “It’s all hands-on; it’s not the kind of thing you can sit in a classroom and learn. And there’s so much new technology that I’ve never seen.”

The house itself has been broken down by the students and awaits shipping, said Davis. A trucking company will meet the team in Irvine, where they’ll have eight or nine days to get it set up and fully operational before judging begins.

“Then the competition takes about two weeks; the final week is for breaking down the house to travel again,” Davis explained.

The WVU team will compete against other university teams from around the world. According to the US Department of Energy’s web site, the winner will combine the “best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.”

The 25-30 students who are traveling to California with Davis will be kept pretty busy, even aside from the competition itself. Davis said that professors at WVU aren’t easing up on them, school-wise.

“I still have to keep up with my classwork while I’m there,” said Davis. “It’s going to be a challenge.”

Not that there won’t be time for fun, he said; it will be an opportunity to see a new side of the country.

“We’ll get some time off to sight-see after we get the house set up,” said Davis. “I’m excited. I’ve never been west of the Mississippi.”