Watt Trekker 2016: The SMUD Tiny House Competition

Solar Schoolhouse and the Watt Trekker crew visited SMUD’s Tiny House Competition, October 2016, in Sacramento, California. Participating college teams have designed and built energy efficient and solar powered tiny homes, as potential affordable solution for housing. We spoke with several student teams to learn of their experiences. To learn more about the teams, view floorplans, and see who won. visit smud.org/tinyhouse.  

visit watttrekker.org to view additional energy videos from the Solar Schoolhouse team.

Repurposing Campaign Signs into Solar Projects


[November 9th, 2016] I’m not feeling very well this morning, but after crawling out from under the covers, saw that the Sun is shining today, as it does everyday,  and realized that the task of shaping a Clean Energy Future remains.  Now, more than ever, the importance of engaging young people in this movement has increased dramatically.   One small step in this process is to REPURPOSE those campaign signs that have littered the landscape across the country.  While this corrugated plastic (polypropylene) material is recyclable, please consider collecting some for use in your Classroom or School, or help direct these materials to your local school.  Providing students a Hands-on opportunity to explore applications of harnessing the Sun’s Energy, is a good start to toward that Clean Energy Future we’re hoping for.

We’ve been experimenting with this material for the past 5 months since the primaries, making Solar Notebook Chargers (for cellphonse, flashlights, powerbanks), and reflectors for Solar Ovens (increasing temperatures by up to 100F), lightweight model solar cars, and more.  We’re collecting this material from our local area, so we have plenty for now.  If you are a teacher or school, reach out today to the campaign organizers in your local area about collecting signs before they are recycled or landfilled.  Find the contact information online for campaigns in your area to ask about donating the signs to your school.   For solar project details, we’ll have a few project options to share online shortly. Fill in your contact info here if you’d like project details when they are available.

In addition to SOLAR Energy projects, there are many more cool and practical projects that students can get creative and build. Tools required are a utility knife and some zip ties. plus some math skills and imagination.

Other potential projects using repurposed campaign signs made of corrugated plastic.

or one of my favorites, the bike trailer camper
or the tiny coroplast house….


Solar Emergency Preparedness Kit – FREE Workshop for Educators – Sacramento Nov 2nd

In collaboration with SMUD, we’re offering a FREE Workshop on November 2nd (4-7pm) to area Educators.

Participants will build a Solar Charged Emergency Preparedness Kit (coined E123) that includes: Solar modules mounted on repurposed campaign signs, wired to a USB charger, a LED Work-Flashlight (modified by you to allow for solar charging), and a mini-Power Bank (to store solar energy for charging cell phones on the go).


This workshop is designed to provide you with ideas to recreate in your own teaching environment, with your students. Designing and building a Solar Charging station that can be used on a routine basis, as well as for emergencies, provides you and your students with an opportunity to experiment with the magic of Photovoltaics (solar electric cells) and apply it toward creating a useful tool for AnyHome – AnyWhere.  There are many different designs possible, allowing your students the freedom to get creative.  In our design, we’ll be working with repurposed corrugated plastic campaign signs as a building material – as it has desirable waterproof and durability characteristics. We’ll also be keeping much of this material out of the landfill.

Designing and building practical solar solutions for your home, school, or community… helps raise solar literacy and increase understanding of what is possible as we help shape a clean energy future …together.

This workshop is targeted for Educators involved with grades 6-12. If you are working with students of these ages, but not in a traditional classroom, please consider joining us. To learn more and to register. Please share with interested colleagues. Call or email with any questions.

Location: Folsom Powerhouse Museum. 9980 Greenback Lane. Folsom, CA
When: Wednesday. November 2nd. 2016, 4-7pm.  It’s FREE, but RSVP required.

Looking forward,

 PS. For those that can’t make it to the workshop, we’ll have information on how to get materials for this projects the weeks ahead. Contact me with any questions.  tor @ rahus.org

Zero Net Energy Tiny House Competition open to public this Saturday Oct.15th in Sacramento

the Tiny House Competition is underway! Open to Public on Saturday October 15th @ Consumnes River College in Sacramento, CA


 SMUD is hosting The Tiny House Competition, a home building competition, on October 15, 2016 at Cosumnes River College in Sacramento.  In keeping with the excitement of the Tiny House movement, as seen in documentaries and the Tiny House Nation TV show, the competition will inspire. The Tiny House Competition is modeled after the Solar Decathlon created by the U.S. Department of Energy. The colleges and universities participating in The Tiny House Competition will explore net-zero energy building, green building techniques, and sustainable living. The teams will design and build houses on wheels, ranging between 100 and 400 square feet. These homes will feature smart energy appliances, green building techniques and the use of renewable energy, creating innovative net-zero homes.

10 College teams have traveled with their zero net energy, custom-designed, tiny houses to Sacramento to create a tiny village at Consumnes River College.  If you’re anywhere near Sacramento, plan on checking this out this coming Saturday.

For those that can’t make it, we’ll be trying our best to film and create some short videos as part of our Watt Trekker video series, for potential use in teaching solar in your classrooms.  We’ll be hosting a series of activities in the Solar Discovery Zone. Stop by and say Hello!

The event is FREE and runs from 9am to 4pm.   Here is the location @ Consumnes River College.

Teams from these colleges are participating….

California State University, Fresno
Laney College
College of the Sequoias
University of California, Berkeley
Cosumnes River College
Santa Clara University
San Jose City College
University of California, Santa Cruz & Cabrillo College
California State University, Sacramento
California State University, Chico

Tiny House Competition in the news…

[Sacramento St News 10-10-16] Hitch up the tiny house: Students head to SMUD contest

[East Bay Times, 10-5-16] Bay Area: Teams racing to solve housing, energy dilemmas in one small package

[CBS SF BayLocal 10-7-16] Santa Clara Students Put Spin On Solar Power For ‘Tiny House’ Contest


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