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Photo, taken from a high vantage point, of a crowd meandering and looking at houses on either side of a wide gravel path.

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2009 draws a steady stream of visitors to the National Mall on a fine Sunday.
(Credit: Richard King/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

Photo of young woman standing next to two round solar collectors. There is a small group gathered near her.

Student decathletes from the University of Arizona make popcorn using a solar concentrator in their backyard.
(Credit: Richard King//U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

Photo of a small group of adults and children gathered around an exhibit with a plexiglass-encased water fountain underneath a solar panel.

Visitors to the National Mall stop to test drive a hands-on exhibit of the sun's power.
(Credit: Robin Ashmore/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

Solar Decathlon 2009

Daily Journal - October 11, 2009

Solar Decathlon Draws Sunday Strollers and Solar Aficionados

A crisp, clear autumn day brought more visitors to the Solar Decathlon today. All types—young and old, students and professionals, families and friends, and loyal alumni—are here. They've come from New York, Pennsylvania, and California just to see the houses and the innovations. I have been especially pleased to see lots of families, many with strollers filled with youngsters, going from house to house.

We couldn't have asked for a better day.

Today's standings are extremely close! The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Rice University have held the lead for most of the past two days, while Cornell University, Team California, and Team Ontario/BC follow right behind. The houses of the Illinois and Rice teams have performed very well in hot water, heating, and cooling tests. However, Illinois has a slight edge when it comes to washing clothes and running appliances. So far, teams have accumulated only about 100 points out of the competition total of 1,000. That will all change tomorrow at 10 a.m., when both the Architecture and Market Viability contest results will be announced for a possible total of 200 points.

Tonight, the decathletes will have fun earning more points. The Home Entertainment contest requires teams to host a movie night for six neighbors. They earn points for the quality and design of the home theater system, ambiance, and overall experience as judged by the student guests. "The Dark Knight" will be featured to demonstrate graphics and sound.

Perhaps some moviegoers will be fortunate enough to enjoy solar-powered popcorn, as I did while touring the University of Arizona house this afternoon. The team has a solar concentrator on its back porch that cooks popcorn in a pan heated by the sun. Arizona guests will savor this treat during the movie.

Don't forget to tune in tomorrow to see how the standings have changed with the addition of 200 possible points.