Just over three weeks ago S&T’s massive Chameleon House departed Rolla for the first-ever U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon, west coast version. Communication’s been a little thin since then, an unfortunate byproduct of many 19-hours days on the jobsite. In the mad dash to get the house rebuilt within the 10-day deadline students, staff, and especially the heroes from the campus physical facilities have been working as hard as they ever have before; maybe as hard as they ever will again.

The team really held it’s collective breath to see if the home’s integral concrete floor survived the 1,700+ mile trip. The building also had to survive two crane-lift cycles and lots of pushing and pulling during the intensive rebuild chaos, so the engineering had to be just right. Remember the concrete wasn’t under the house; it was inside the house. For all to see.

The colored floor has been very popular with Decathlon guests, both for it’s visual impact and the fact that the Miners were able to move it intact. It sets the foundation for the house’s striking interior and incorporates hundreds of feet of radiant tubing to keep the living space comfortable in Missouri winters. Damage or cracking could have ruined both those completion strategies, but it all (whew!) came through in fine shape.

The competition’s been underway for a few days but since less than 15% of the points have been awarded it’s tough to pick a clear leader. The Miners ran into repeated trouble with their water pump that hurt them in the early phases of the hot water contest; they’ve been able to heat plenty of water but fell just short of delivering the daily required volume. It was finally repaired over the weekend so S&T should rebound in the scoring. We’re speculating that without the pump problems S&T would be in the top third of scores.

Students report wonderful weather for the event, except for the day that Santa Anna winds roared out of the mountains. Gusts of 60-70 mph wrecked displays, pushed clouds of sand and dust through the site and forced the event to close for a day.

You can track S&T’s scoring progress here. You can even vote for your (hint, hint!) favorite house, so do as Chicagoans do; vote early and often.

Now that the team has a working house and plenty of rest, you should see more stories, anecdotes and pictures in the coming days.