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UTEP's solar-powered house to compete internationally


UTEP's solar-powered house to compete internationally


UTEP's solar-powered house to compete internationally

UTEP and EPCC students will build a solar -powered house for competition in Irvine, Calif. They are the only representatives from Texas in the international competition.Top row: David Ramirez, Doug Achim, Cecilian DeLeon, Nicolas Mercado, Omar Olguin. Bottom row: Jennifer Salas, Juan Carlos Gonzalez, Rogelio Dominguez.
Photo by Michele Torres.

Students participating in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon are preparing to break ground on their competition piece, a $250,000 solar powered house.

The design of the house will embody the character of the El Paso region and will be constructed using local materials. The project has been in the works since February 2012 and the competition will take place in Irvine, Calif. in October.

Along with a team of 80 students from varying majors who have worked on the project, junior accounting major Lourdes Esquivel said coordinating schedules was a challenge.

Once the project is complete, Esquivel said the next task will be providing awareness of the competition and bringing pride to the region.

The house was named ADAPT after the values the team chose the house to represent: Accomodate, Design, Adjust, Provide and Transform.

The team has received support from the Department of Engineering, including professor of civil engineering, Austin Marshall, department chair of civil engineering, Cesar Carrasco and assistant dean, Manuel Pacillas. From EPCC, dean of architecure, Tonie Badillo, along with professors Ken Gorski , Maria Prospero and Olga Valerio have supported the project.

"UTEP and EPCC were selected to represent Team Texas in a global competition and that's something we should be really proud of," Esquivel said.

Esquivel also said she decided to participate in the competition because she liked the idea of creating a home that is only sustainable with solar power, which may impact the way homes save energy.

"I hope to gain experience on working with a big team with members with different backgrounds," Esquivel said. "The most important thing I hope (to achieve) is to be able to educate people through the ADAPT home and maybe make the region better by building homes like ours."

Diego Kerstiens, junior electrical engineering major, is the project's lead electrical engineer. Kerstiens said he oversees the group that handles the electrical aspects of the house, from the wiring and lighting to the appliances and home automation, as well as the solar panel system.

"There aren't too many obstacles in building a solar-powered house other than making sure all the equipment is compatible with your system, since nowadays all the equipment is readily available on today's markets," Kerstiens said. "The biggest obstacle we face as a team is making sure that the house stays transportable with all these different systems being integrated at the same time."

The house will be assembled on UTEP property by the airport before being disassembled and relocated to Irvine. The house will then be brought back to El Paso after the competition. The disassembling and transporting of the house were factored into the team's plans before they began work on the project.

"First, the team had to come up with a house that could be assembled and disassembled in a short period of time, and of course a house that was self-sustainable," Esquivel said. "Second, we have to get sponsors to help us pay for all the materials and transportation of the house. Last, (we had) to get the students to begin construction."

A graduate in construction management, Ceci DeLeon, is the project manager and coordinates interactions between students, consultants, team leaders and faculty members.

"I have my bachelor's degree in architecture, so when I heard about the project, it was an opportunity for me to put my architectural knowledge on the project, as well as a great opportunity for me to be in a foreign country and use my background as an architect," DeLeon said. "I have my business degree from Mexico, so that's why I was feeling a real opportunity to use my knowledge as an architect here."

Kerstiens said solar-powered houses are beneficial to residents, communities and the environment.

"The benefits of living in a solar-powered house rather than a conventional one would be living in a self-sustaining home rather than having to depend on electric and gas companies, who burn through non-renewable resources to supply you energy."

The competition is open to institutions of higher education on an international level. UTEP is the only university working with a community college, and is also the only team from the state of Texas participating.

"We are 20 different schools and we are the only ones representing Texas, so we want to make a very good representation of the country," DeLeon said. "This is an international competition so that means that if UTEP has a good presentation, it will have a good representation around the world."

Sabrina Nuñez may be reached at


The University of Texas at El Paso
College of Engineering
Engineering Building Room A148
500 W University Ave
El Paso, TX 79968

Phone: (915) 747-6444
Fax: (915) 747-5437

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