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What Do Solar Decathlon Team Members Do After Competing?

1Sun4All

David Schieren is the chief executive officer of a leading Long Island, New York, solar engineering and installation company. He’s also a U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon alumnus and outspoken advocate for the competition, writes Carol Laurie for Solar Decathlon.

Schieren emphasizes the Solar Decathlon’s unique way of teaching science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) provides participants with the experience they need for the clean energy workforce.

solar decathlon David-and-Cristina-at-SDE14David Schieren and his wife, fellow former decathlete and alumni association cofounder Cristina Zancani, in front of Adaptive House, the competition entry from King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi at Solar Decathlon Europe 2014 in Versailles, France. | Courtesy of David Schieren, EmPower Solar

Solar Decathlon Is Defining Experience for New York Solar Company CEO

There is simply no substitute for direct experience, and the Solar Decathlon provides an unparalleled opportunity to work with a real budget and collaborate with an interdisciplinary team on renewable energy, energy efficiency, construction, project management, marketing, communications, and fundraising.

The Solar Decathlon played a pivotal role in my professional development because it gave me the ultimate crash course in STEM topics through both academic textbook learning and project/competition-based learning. –David Schieren, CEO of EmPower Solar.

Schieren was a graduate student in energy management when he joined the New York Institute of Technology’s Solar Decathlon 2005 team.

When I first learned about the Solar Decathlon, I knew immediately that the scope of work as an engineering team member would encompass all the hands-on learning experience I was craving as a student of renewable energy and energy efficiency and that it would position me well for the workforce. –David Schieren.

Schieren spent two years as the energy team leader, with overall responsibility for engineering and joint responsibility for project management, fundraising, communication, and leadership efforts. The team finished in fifth place.

But his involvement with the competition didn’t end there. Schieren has attended every U.S. event since 2005. And in 2007, he cofounded the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon Alumni Association, which provides a forum for former decathletes to connect, build relationships, share information, network about job opportunities, and advocate for renewable energy.

For me and many competition alumni, the Solar Decathlon is a life-defining event. While I was already passionate about solar and sustainability, the competition transformed my passion into laser focus and clarity of purpose with experience to back me up.

The Solar Decathlon’s key lesson for me was that through research, positive collaboration, dedication, and hard work, we can use solar with energy efficiency and sustainable building practices to dramatically improve the standard of living. –David Schieren.

Schieren sings the virtues of the Solar Decathlon through his company’s yearly EmPower Solar Student Competition. Encouraging local high school students to discover the benefits of solar power, the competition combines STEM and creative components to communicate students’ research. To date, the Solar Student Competition has engaged hundreds of students and awarded more than $8,000 in scholarships. Best of all, the grand prize is a trip to the Solar Decathlon. Over the years, EmPower Solar has sent the winning teams to Solar Decathlons in Washington, D.C.; Irvine, California; and just recently, to Solar Decathlon Europe 2014 in Versailles, France.

Schieren also demonstrates his Solar Decathlon commitment through EmPower Solar’s hiring practices.

I actively target decathletes for open positions at my company and recommend them to other recruiters. Solar decathletes are self-selecting ‘A’ players who have a deep passion for sustainability and an unyielding work ethic,.

If I can’t find decathletes, I look for similar traits in other candidates, such as experience with STEM project-based learning and particularly competitions. There is just something about competitions that can show what people are made of and how dedicated they are. –David Schieren.

In addition to helping shape his career, the Solar Decathlon has had a powerful effect on Schieren’s personal life. During the 2005 competition, he met Cristina Zancani, a decathlete from the Rhode Island School of Design team. The two fell in love and eventually married. Today, Zancani, a cofounder of the Solar Decathlon Alumni Association, is EmPower’s senior architect and presently completing construction of the company’s new net-zero energy Solar Design Center.

Fans of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon mark your calendars:

Solar Decathlon 2015 will be held October 8-18, 2015, at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California and you may remember that there’s a new Commuting Contest. To receive full points the students are required to drive an electric vehicle — charged from their house solar electric system — 25 miles or more in two hours or less each day during the competition.

Source: 1Sun4All. Reproduced with permission.

 
 
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Written By

-- I am an artist, painter, writer, interior designer, graphic designer, and constant student of many studies. Living with respect for the environment close at hand, the food chain, natural remedies for healing the earth, people and animals is a life-long expression and commitment. As half of a home-building team, I helped design and build harmonious, sustainable and net-zero homes that incorporate clean air systems, passive and active solar energy as well as rainwater collection systems. Private aviation stirs a special appeal, I would love to fly in the solar airplane and install a wind turbine in my yard. I am a peace-loving, courageous soul, and I am passionate about contributing to the clean energy revolution. I formerly designed and managed a clean energy website, 1Sun4All.com.

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