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A photo of Holly Carr with past Richard King Awardees

Solar Decathlon Faculty and Alumni Awards

Know a Solar Decathlon alum or faculty advisor who should be celebrated for accomplishments in the buildings industry? Nominate them for the Solar Decathlon Faculty/Alumni Awards!

These awards are bestowed each year at the Solar Decathlon Competition Event and awardees are selected based on their contributions to the transition to a clean energy economy.


  • Nominees must be affiliated with the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon® in one of the award categories (i.e., student alumni or faculty advisor).
  • Nominees must have proven dedication and outstanding contributions to at least one edition of the U.S. Solar Decathlon Design Challenge, including past Race to Zero competitions, or U.S. Build Challenge.
  • Nominees do not need to be currently working directly with Solar Decathlon.


  • Solar Decathlon Faculty Award
    • A past or current faculty advisor who demonstrates outstanding commitment to preparing students to design and/or build highly efficient buildings powered by renewables.
  • Solar Decathlon Alumni Award
    • A past Solar Decathlon student participant who currently demonstrates outstanding contributions in the transition to a clean energy economy.


Nominations are OPEN for the 2024 Solar Decathlon Faculty/Alumni Awards! Nominate an individual making an impact on the clean energy economy by Feb. 1 for them to be considered. Winners will be announced in April 2024 at the Solar Decathlon Competition Event at NREL in Golden, CO.


Winners were honored during the Solar Decathlon Competition Event in April 2023. Prior to 2024 the awards were called the Richard King Awards.

headshot of Sarah Klinetob Lowe

Sarah Klinetob Lowe, Solar Program Manager at the Clean Energy Center at Penn College, won the 2023 Outstanding Alumni award. After participating in two Build Challenges, Sarah has served as a team advisor for nine total Solar Decathlon competition cycles, partnering with housing providers to enhance the lasting community impact of the students' work. She has also developed impactful clean energy programs for students and professionals focused on passive house strategies and solar photovoltaic systems for developing communities.

headshot of Edoarda Corradi Dell'Acqua

Edoarda Corradi Dell'Acqua, senior lecturer at the Illinois Institute of Technology, won the 2023 Outstanding Faculty Advisor award. Edoarda has served as a lead advisor to students participating in the Solar Decathlon Design Challenge for nearly a decade, combining her expertise in both engineering and architecture to mentor students as they learn to design better buildings in several masters-level courses dedicated to the competition.


Winners were honored during the Solar Decathlon Competition Event in April 2022.

headshot of Joe Wheeler

Joe Wheeler, Outstanding Faculty Advisor
Joe Wheeler is a professor of architecture at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) and has been a faculty advisor for Solar Decathlon teams since the competition's start in 2002. Joseph has advised three Virginia Tech Build Challenge teams, setting the standard at his university for experiential learning and inspiring other programs to participate in the Design Challenge. He has also been involved in several international Solar Decathlon editions and has exhibited Virginia Tech Solar Decathlon houses in Times Square and on “Good Morning America”.

Joe has partnered with colleagues in electrical engineering, materials science, industrial design, manufacturing, and transportation to develop and implement the use of new materials and technologies developed in Solar Decathlon houses.

headshot of Alex McDonald

Alex McDonald, Outstanding Student Alum
As a senior program manager for Tesla, Alex's work contributes to decarbonization of the transportation sector. Alex is primarily involved with Tesla's Superchargers, the largest electric vehicle fast charging network in the world with more than 30,000 chargers globally.

In 2015, Alex led the Team Orange County Build Challenge submission, which included students from University of California, Irvine; Chapman University; Irvine Valley College; and Saddleback College. Team Orange County placed second in the Engineering Contest that year, and Alex has remained involved with the Solar Decathlon by mentoring Design and Build Challenge teams in nearly every competition since. Alex also served as a Grand Juror for the 2022 Design Challenge. One of Alex's nominators shared, "I can firmly say that we would not be participating in the 2023 Build Competition without his guidance and expertise. What stood out the most about Alex is he was very interested in supporting us, even though he had no ties to our university."