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Shelter from the heat

12:46 PM  Aug 9th, 2011
by Meredith Hirt '13

The National Science Foundation funded a STEM program this summer that brought elementary and high school teachers from the Miami Valley region together with UD engineering faculty. The program had two goals: to sponsor projects beneficial to economic success and to bring hands-on learning into the classroom to inspire the next generation of engineering students.

One project aimed to reduce energy consumption at St. Vincent de Paul Gateway Shelter. One teacher explained the beginning of the idea process, likening it to shooting a paintball gun – the group was hitting the target but splattering a vast area. To narrow its focus the group organized its solutions into eight categories: windows, solar, water, air flow, lighting and landscaping.

When giving the group a tour of the shelter, program director Ann Goebel kept repeating, “This is our home. We live here.” So out of 10 requirements, the teachers made safety the top priority, followed by energy conservation, cost to implement and user-friendliness.

The group discovered its strongest solution was a reflective roofing material to deflect sunlight. Teachers created a plywood prototype and tested four materials by recording the roof’s temperature every five minutes for an hour.

A metalized film called BoPET – essentially a silver space blanket – provided the best results in keeping the prototype cooler than the air temperature. The group recommended further testing but agreed that, with enough time, their reflective roof idea could help reduce energy consumption by keeping St. Vincent de Paul Gateway Shelter cool.

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