College of Education Student Uses Science and Education Background to Support Penn State Solar Decathlon Team
Tom Chorman, a Curriculum and Instruction master’s student in science education, has spent over a year working with a Penn State team to develop a state-of-the-art home that functions completely on solar power.
The Solar Decathlon is an international competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy for university teams to design and build a completely solar-powered home. The home must also be transportable so that it can be taken to Washington D.C. for the final competition.
The Penn State Solar Decathalon team worked for over two years to develop their home, which they call MorningStar. During the October 2007 competition, MorningStar won 4th place overall out of 20 universities.
Chorman’s involvement with the project was multifaceted. He was the leader of the Car-Home team, which finalized the electric vehicle and the batteries that are used with the house.
He also used his education background to develop an educational kiosk that was on display for the over 250,000 visitors who toured the home when it was on display at the National Mall in Washington D.C.
“In the kiosk, we discuss energy storage technologies that will be researched upon the house's return to PSU. I used a LEGO version of our house with a working toy fuel cell car to show the public what we plan to research in the future with the home,” said Chorman.
“At the competition, there was such a great mix of skeptics, enthusiastic environmentalists, and those who didn't have a clue what was going on. They all were interested, and I felt like I reached out to a lot of them with our message of how close solar technologies are to becoming a reality in many homes in the world.”
The project has been a great educational endeavor at Penn State. Since the project was begun at Penn State in September of 2005, it has had an estimated educational footprint of 900-plus students and has involved many other people from Penn State and the local community.
The MorningStar project does not end with this success. The home will return to Penn State's University Park campus, where it will serve as a permanent renewable energy research lab and outreach facility at Penn State's Center for Sustainability. Shortly after the competition, Gov. Edward Rendell announced that Penn State will receive a $560,000 grant for MorningStar as part of a statewide $11 million investment into 24 alternative and renewable energy projects.
Chorman is also earning his certification in physics along with his M.Ed., and will student teach this spring in Norway. He completed his B.S. at Penn State in Mechanical Engineering and Economics.