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Recap: Caltech Regional Conference

Last weekend, the ESW chapter at California Institute of Technology hosted the second SoCal Regional Conference with representatives from six chapters: UC San Diego, Harvey Mudd College, CSU Long Beach, CSULA, UC Merced, and of course, Caltech itself.

The conference officially started with keynote speaker John Onderdonk, Director of Sustainability Programs at Caltech.  John talked about talked about sustainability design principles with examples from Caltech.  For energy, he highlighted that 80% of the campus’ energy is generated on site and its fuel cell arrays and parking lot solar fields.  In built environment, he showcased the Linde + Robinson facility, Caltech’s first LEED Platinum building, which retrofitted a mirror array used to study sunlight into a fiber optics network to pipe daylighting through the building.

Following Onderdonk’s talk, the conference moved back outside for a spaghetti and marshmallow tower building activity.  Attendees were broken up by a randomized designation on their name tags to get students from different chapters t

alking to each other and working together.  In the end, the tallest tower ended up being 40 inches, but each team ended up winning some category, such as “most structurally sound”, “most elegant”, and “first to be measured”.

Next came informal presentations by chapter representatives on the projects and initiatives each chapter was doing, which lead into discussions about issues chapters were having with constructive input from everyone.  For instance, UCSD has 150 dues-paying members and had the unique problem of having to create new projects this year to accommodate the new members.  CSULB, one of the newest chapters to the ESW network, is working on an aquaponics system and was getting input on some of the technical issues.

Afterwards, it was back outside to have lunch in a quad with more interchapter socializing followed by a scavenger hunt that led randomized groups of students on teams around campus to various landmarks, such as the house used for the filming of Legally Blonde.

The day ended with a stellar solar charger workshop jointly hosted by ESW and Techers for a Sustainable World, where everyone who participated was able to build and keep solar chargers using high quality 5W panels. The workshop instructions and presentation will be available for others to use in the near future. 

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