MENTOR INTERVIEW: Evan Merkel – Engineering

Photo of Evan Merkel

LEAFHouse Alum and WaterShed Mentor Evan Merkel
Photo Credit: Amy Gardner

When Evan Merkel caught wind Maryland would be participating in Solar Decathlon 2011, volunteering as a mentor was a no-brainer. A photovoltaic design engineer by trade, Evan is one of a handful of mentors who has been on both sides of the coin; he was also a dedicated team leader for Maryland’s 2007 entry, LEAFHouse. Although Evan majored in electrical engineering, he eagerly pitched in wherever he could to support his team, which included leading the structural engineering and cost-estimating efforts for LEAFHouse.

Returning as a WaterShed mentor lets Evan revisit his familiar stomping grounds, and share what he’s learned in the field with the next generation of Decathletes. He helped the team design the photovoltaic systems for the roof, comparing different technologies and products. He also guided students throughout the wiring and installation process. As in 2007, Evan is a devoted and hard-working member of Maryland’s Solar Decathlon team. Below he talks about the accessibility of green living and the practical value of the Solar Decathlon.

What has been your favorite aspect of working on WaterShed?
EM: My favorite aspect of the Solar Decathlon has always been working with multidisciplinary teams to accomplish a common goal. The variety of backgrounds and perspectives keeps things interesting.

What do you hope the students take away from working with you on WaterShed?
EM: A passion for the renewables/sustainables industry of course, but more importantly the desire to innovate in their careers.

What have you learned from working with the students this year?
EM: Working with the students this year has reinforced for me how important real-life applications are in school and how crucial that first year jump after college is. There should be more programs like Solar Decathlon in schools!

How important are competitions like the Solar Decathlon in respect to the future of architecture, building technology, and construction?
EM: Programs like SD are so vital to providing students with actual applications they will encounter in their careers but in a more controlled environment. They are essential to seamlessly transitioning into any career. As I mentioned, real-world experience where students can put what they learn into practice is invaluable.

What do you hope people will take away from WaterShed when they visit it on the Mall in September?
EM: I hope people realize when it comes to living and building more sustainably, there is something for everyone’s price range. There are many ways, even in a modestly sized house, to improve efficiency and eco-friendliness. Some people tend to think this stuff is just for the die-hard tree-huggers but the things demonstrated at the Solar Decathlon are everyone’s future.

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