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Andrew Gong

Summer 2013

I’m Andrew Gong BS ’12, Project Manager for the 2013 Caltech/SCI-Arc Solar Decathlon Team. As a sophomore at Caltech, I was looking to delve into a transformational project focused on sustainability and design, one which involved independent student collaboration that I could see through from concept to execution.

I found the Solar Decathlon - a biannual competition sponsored by the US Department of Energy. The DOE wants to revolutionize home energy use through students - the next generation of engineering and design innovators - and teach the public that it’s affordable to make sustainable living a reality. I applied with a determined group of Caltech students, faculty advisors, and in partnership with the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), and we were accepted!   

Our first entry was CHIP – the Compact Hyper-Insulated Prototype. We focused on technology & engineering advances while SCI-Arc created the architectural & design elements. It was a huge learning experience for all of us, because we designed and built the house from the ground-up to challenge every architectural and engineering preconception about a net-zero home.  CHIP featured exterior insulation, a 7.8 kW photovoltaic array, a “Big Red Button” to cut all energy use, and motion sensing controls built with Xbox Kinect™ technology. We won 2nd place in engineering, 3rd in affordability and 6th place overall, leaving us pleased but with plenty to strive for in the next competition. We applied for 2013 a month after CHIP competed and I was ready to take on 2.0, this time as Project Manager.

Just three days after I graduated, I was on staff at Caltech, and plans for the next home were under way.  In my new role, I’ve stepped outside my comfort zone to lead the team, fundraise, and engage community partners. Having the competition in Southern California this time put us on home turf. Inspired by the region’s temperate climate, dramatic geography, and adventurous lifestyle, we’re creating the first ever rail-mounted, convertible home.  The house can change configuration for flexibility of space, allowing for optimal energy consumption, and to take advantage of California’s ideal weather. Construction is pushing ahead into the summer, and I’m optimistic about our entry and eager to take on all our competitors.

Meet DALE –  a Dynamic Augmented Living Environment, the solar powered net-zero home of Southern California and the Caltech/SCI-Arc submission to the 2013 Solar Decathlon coming October 3 – 13 to the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California. (CHIP and DALE, get it?) I invite you to follow our progress at, learn how you can get involved, and come see the house in October, where we plan to take 1st place!

I chose to come to Caltech for the liberties and opportunities it would afford me. I learned to create beyond the boundaries of the classroom and challenge conventions.  Thanks to my education and experience at Caltech, I feel 100% prepared to take on whatever comes next.  If I had to make the choice all over again, Caltech would still be my only choice.

The support of alumni like you helps make Caltech, Caltech. Thanks to you, students have a multitude of unique opportunities to participate in projects like the Solar Decathlon or research science’s biggest questions. And some students wouldn’t be able to afford their education without your annual gift. I hope you will choose to make your contribution today and support the New Generation of Techers.

Thank you,

Andrew Gong ’12