STUDENT INTERVIEW: Jay Chmilewski – Engineering

Photo of Jay Chmilewski working

Jay Chmilewski has a great eye for detail. It’s a skill that in part attributes to his success in his civil engineering degree, and that sources his photography subjects, a hobby which gained him some local recognition at a gallery showing last year. This is a good thing, as Jay’s life for the past two years has been all about the details.

Jay, who will graduate from Maryland in June, is behind the absolutely massive job of designing and developing three key engineering systems for WaterShed: plumbing, solar thermal, and desiccant dehumidification. This involved careful design and research, modification and tinkering of existing technologies, and closely working with trade mentors for a flawless performance in time for competition. Throughout the building process Jay has encountered many challenges. According to his teammates, he has handled these with intelligence, patience, and focus. He is a tremendously dedicated member of the WaterShed team. Below Jay talks about why two – not one – crescent wrenches are a must-have on any job.

What has been your personal WaterShed moment so far?
JC: Seeing the data from the house sensors proving the things I designed (HXEST, solar thermal, desiccant) work as planned and visibly improve the house’s performance.

What has been your most important learning experience on the project?
JC: Watching a house develop from sketches on trace paper to a full-sized, livable house has been an incredibly educational experience. Witnessing the transition from 2D construction drawings to a 3D house alone taught me more than any class could have.

How has working on WaterShed influenced your career path?
JC: This project showed me all of the gaping efficiency flaws in most modern households and room for potential improvement. I think I still want to go into transportation engineering but this project has definitely begun to pull me more towards residential renewable technologies and innovative mechanical systems instead. I guess the future will tell which field I eventually wind up in.

When people come to visit WaterShed on the Mall in September, what do you hope they will take away from the experience?
JC: Having an eco-friendly house isn’t limited to new construction or even the rich. Green technology can be affordable, adaptable, and, most importantly, effective in reducing our impact on this earth. Also, I hope our house convinces people our nation’s trend for larger and larger houses is becoming impractical and a house of less than 1000 sq. ft. is adequate for a couple or small family.

What do you always have with you on the job site?
JC: Two crescent wrenches. Never do any job without two crescent wrenches.

How do you spend your time when you’re not on the job site?
JC: Sleeping.


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