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Amanda Kirkeby is #SDLivingTheDream:
From Solar Decathlon student team to event organizing team

Monday, May 18, 2020

Our #SDLivingTheDream series continues with a recent alum from the Design Challenge who actually went on to work behind the scenes with the event’s staff, including posting to our social media channels for last month’s completely virtual event.

Amanda Kirkeby working in the lab at NREL on Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) research, an alternative method of power distribution in buildings.


Name: Amanda Kirkeby

Year participated in Solar Decathlon: 2018 Design Challenge

University team: Middlebury Zero Energy School Team (Middlebury College)

Current organization / employer: National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)

Current role: Post-graduate intern with the Applied Engineering group

How did participation in the Solar Decathlon affect the trajectory of your career?

The Solar Decathlon Design Challenge is the most influential experience of my professional career so far; it opened my eyes to the industry of sustainable building science/design and led to opportunities to continue in the field. After an inspiring visit to NREL at Design Challenge Weekend, I applied for the Fall 2019 Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI) Program at NREL post-graduation (Middlebury ’19, BA, physics). As a SULI with the Commercial Buildings Group, I researched alternative power distribution and developed professional connections that led to the opportunity to continue at NREL. My Solar Decathlon experience really has come full-circle, as I now work with Rachel Romero on the back-end of Solar Decathlon inspiring the next generation of students!

Describe a work outcome, building project or other achievement you are most proud of and how (if) it relates to your experience with Solar Decathlon.

I was once told to measure success by the positive impact of your work. The most impactful project to date, inspired by Solar Decathlon, was with the Middlebury Architecture Habitat for Humanity Design Studio. Our team designed an affordable high-performance home for a local family in need. I can’t help but smile knowing the house is in construction this year, and all that effort poured into design is putting a roof over a real family.


The Habitat for Humanity house Kirkeby helped design will be built this summer. (Artwork credit: Kelsey Vanzandt)


Currently in progress at NREL is my work on the Smart Labs Toolkit, a website hosting resources for improving efficiency and safety in laboratories. Just published this May, I am excited the Toolkit is now public and will hopefully improve safety and sustainability of lab research nationwide.


A women working on a thermal ionization machine

Kirkeby studied Physics at Middlebury College and researched thermal ionization, a background translating well into building science. (Photo credit: Anne Goodsell)

Kirkeby and her Design Challenge team at NREL for the 2018 Design Challenge Weekend.

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