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The Solar Decathlon is a series of international competitions that challenge collegiate teams to design, build and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective and attractive. It is based upon an initiative of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the Solar Decathlon was inaugurated in 2002.It consists of ten contests, juried or metered, with prizes for the overall three highest cumulative scores. Teams comply with competition rules, building codes, and graphic standards. Teams enter a Memorandum of Understanding with the Organizers that requires a scheduled set of deliverables. Teams may be either single institutions or a multi-institutional effort.

The Solar Decathlon has expanded internationally to include five additional worldwide competitions: Solar Decathlon Africa, Solar Decathlon China, Solar Decathlon Europe, Solar Decathlon Latin America and Caribbean, and Solar Decathlon Middle East. It is the largest sustainable building research and innovation competition in the world. Technology demonstrated at the decathlon’s have a 5-10 year lead to broad market availability and adoption.

Tens of thousands of students, educators, and industry mentors at over 500 educational institutions from nearly 60 countries on five continents have raised public awareness of the importance of renewable energy, sustainability, and energy efficiency. it has emerged as a core 20th century pedagogy for educating future engineers, architects, and ecological scientists, operating in multidisciplinary teams, to advance sustainability technology. The very scale and complexity of competing in the Solar Decathlon are essential elements in mastering sustainability competence and leadership skills development.

Team Maryland competed as a single institution in 2002, 2005, 2007, 2011, 2017. Maryland took first place overall in 2011, and first place US institutions (second place overall) in 2007 and 2017. In 2002 UMD placed 4th overall. In 2005 Maryland received the People’s Choice Award. Recognized for its record of excellence, Team Maryland has been invited to collaborate on multi-institutional teams for Solar Decathlon Europe and Solar Decathlon Africa, both held in 2019.

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