SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Santa Clara University (SCU) engineering students are holding monthly Google+ Hangouts On Air with elementary schoolers in Irvine, Calif., using the live video chats to teach the children about what goes into designing and building a solar home, and allowing the elementary students to ask questions. The SCU Solar Decathlon team is building a 1,000-square-foot home on campus before loading it on trucks and hauling it to Irvine for the U.S. Department of Energy competition set for October.

“We’re really excited for this opportunity to build a home that produces more energy than it uses and love the idea of sharing our passion for sustainability with the next generation,” said mechanical engineering student Brian Grau, ‘15.

Plaza Vista School teacher Scott Bedley first approached the team to talk to his class in January. Since then, hundreds of people have watched the hangouts both live and archived and several additional schools are participating.

“I’m so thankful the team from SCU agreed to inspire not only my class, but now together we are reaching many others in the process,” said Bedley.

The fifth graders have learned about how the solar panels work and taken a “virtual field trip” of the mechanical room of SCU’s Solar Decathlon 2009 entry “Refract House.” The mechanical room holds the systems that control the heating and cooling, convert solar energy, run electrical panels, and monitor the entire house.

“We told the kids the mechanical room is like the home’s brain,” said Nicole Pal, assistant project manager and a junior at SCU. “It’s fun to break down these complicated concepts and we’ve been delighted that the students have caught on so fast. Sometimes they ask questions that better help us understand what we’re doing.”

The next Google+ Hangout On Air is scheduled for Aug. 1 at 9 a.m. PST. Visit

Publication date: 6/24/2013

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