One of the United States’ most exciting alternative-energy events, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon, is about to kick off in Washington DC!  Starting October 9th (and ending the 18th), 20 teams of college and university students, hailing from such diverse corners as Kentucky and Germany, will be competing to design, build and operate their very own solar-powered houses.  The goal is to make them as energy-efficient as possible while still being aesthetically pleasing and practical to live in. In fact, one of our very own at Autonomie Project is down in DC competing himself. Kevin will be representing Boston Architectural College and Tufts University through designing and constructing the Curio House.

The Decathlon is split into three phases: first, the teams put their collective brains together to design their homes using high-tech solutions in unique ways, and then raise the funds and coordinate with contractors to build them.  Next, each team must disassemble their house, transport it to the national Mall in DC and reassemble it.  Finally, the competition begins as each team and home is evalutaed in ten different areas: architecture, market viability, engineering, lighting design, communications, comfort zone, hot water, appliances, home entertainment and net metering (reading how much energy the home consumes over the course of the competition). The juries assessing each area are compromised of scholars and working professionals at the head of their particular field.

This is the fourth Decathlon, the others having occurred previously at intervals of two years.  The contest is always growing, involving more students and universities, and the event brings more than 100,000 people out each time to walk among and interact with the teams and their homes. This is a very special chance to venture into a world that may very well reflect the needs and hopes of a future in crisis. If you have the chance, we highly recommend you take it and go get lost in the solar village!  All of the above information and much more can be found on the event website. We want to send our special thanks to the members of the Curio House and we wish Kevin and the rest the best of luck!

img_0103As I mentioned last week, I headed to Washington on Sunday January 18th to witness this historic inauguration as well as partake in some celebrations! I just wanted to take a moment to share my experiences with you. Without sounding too sentimental I want to say that I could not possibly express in words the feeling and buzz that engrossed that city for the four days I was there. I have never witnessed such an overwhelming and inspiring moment, especially caused by one man. And an American politician at that! But the country is ailing and this is exactly the shift we need.

img_0058The night before the inauguration I was lucky enough to attend the Manifest Hope (sponsored by MoveOn.org, Obey, and SEIU) party. The party was in celebration of the inauguration and artists had filled the gallery with some powerful pieces all inspired by Obama’s campaign. They were also themed around three major ideas that MoveOn.org is focusing on: Healthcare, Worker’s Rights, and Green Economy. The party was exciting and featured awesome performances by Santogold, Moby, and De La Soul. I even mustered up the courage to introduce myself to Moby and talk about veganism. I also briefly met Arnold Schwarzenegger as he strolled through the gallery. Even Rosario Dawson was attending and looked stunning(I’m a big fan of hers)! She was rockin out with the music and was more than nice to all of us commoners! The crowd was energized and we were all excited for tuesday’s events! We met a lot of great people from all over and we even sung Goodbye to Bush. The party raged until the wee hours of the morning as we all headed home for a few hours of rest.

img_0101The next morning I awoke and braved the crowds and frigid weather to make my way to the National Mall. It was about 17 degrees out and I had to walk about 10 miles through freeway ramps, tunnels, through bushes, and even over fences to make my way there! We stood in the cold for hours with millions of other Americans of all races, creeds, and economic status. Even though people were standing and walking for hours, the mood was jubilant. Everyone was helping and looking out for each other. Even the riot police and national guards were calm and so nice. They were not yelling at anyone, they just smiled and asked us all where we were from. I have img_0109never witnessed anything so moving. After hours of standing in the cold and being packed so tight with people we couldn’t breathe, I realized I was no where near a jumbo screen or speakers. So my friend and I decided it would be best if we jumped into a local bar so we could actually hear his speech. We experienced the best of both worlds, with the crowd raging outside and inside the bar, we watched the groundbreaking ceremony.

But really the biggest experience I had was meeting people from all over the world and the sentiment in the city. I have been to DC many times, but have never felt so connected to everyone there. No one minded the cold or the lines or the packed Metro. The police and locals were incredibly accommodating. We were interviewed by tons of press and everyone just seemed optimistic, like we had woken up out of an 8 year nightmare. I met people from as far away as Finland and as close as my neighborhood in Boston.
img_0054Obama may not be perfect and I may not agree with everything he does, but the man is competent and inspiring. To watch that many people brave the weather and travel from far off lands just to hear him speak brought tears to many eyes. He brings a new era of hope and responsibility to our country. We can only hope he lives up to his promises. I hope the optimism lasts but that people still challenge him, as he is human, and a politician at that. Let’s not forget what unwatched power can bring. And the road ahead will not be easy, but at least I feel relieved that our nation lays in the hands of an intelligent and inspirational man. I will never forget that day.
-Gina from Autonomie Project
A crowd of cheerful supporters on their way to National Mall
We took over the freeway tunnels!
Where we hung out with massive crowds!
Braving the cold for Obama!
The morning after–Obama’s house now!
Some Obama Swag from the Streets
Sporting Autonomie at the Manifest Hope Party
De La Soul working the crowds at the Manifest Hope Party
Dancing on Stage with Moby at the Manifest Hope party
Meeting Arnold as he made an appearance through the gallery
Manifest Hope Gallery
Obama inspired sculpture of wires
A New Era of Responsibility


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