U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon


The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DoE) Solar Decathlon is a collegiate competition that challenges students to design and build highly-efficient and innovative buildings powered by renewable energy. The program provides students with unique training that prepares them for a career in the clean energy workforce. In 2008, D+R International was engaged by the DoE ENERGY STAR program to develop and implement a middle school outreach component to help educate and build student awareness of the importance of energy-efficiency and renewable energy.

The Solution

Due in part to its experience with the ENERGY STAR program as well as the National Education Association (NEA), D+R was selected to establish an Education Day program that would bring middle school students together to visit, explore, and learn more about renewable homes at the 2009 Solar Decathlon on the National Mall.

To build middle school student awareness of the importance of renewable energy and the Solar Decathlon event, D+R implemented three main components for the Education Day event, including:

Student Broadcast Network outreach:

Throughout the week of Education Day, student reporters covered the Solar Decathlon competition with interviews on topics such as energy efficiency, conservation, and renewable energy. The reporters’ interviews were then transmitted to anchors in a newsroom at NEA headquarters and streamed by NEA into classrooms nationwide.

Education Day tours:
Students were invited to tour the renewable homes for a first-hand look at the resources, technology, and innovation utilized in the Solar Decathlon competition. Volunteer mentors were on hand to answer any questions the students had.

Education Day workshops:
During the home tours, students attended fun workshops that were designed to engage and introduce them to the ideas of conserving and using energy.

More than 3,000 students attended the first Education Day. In addition to the Education Day events, D+R implemented a sponsorship program that raised more than $500,000 from private partners to offset the cost of the 2009 Education Day program.

To this day, D+R continues to build upon the Solar Decathlon’s educational outreach efforts and is the longest serving contractor in this 22-year program.

The Impact

Solar Decathlon is one of DoE’s most successful outreach efforts. By educating middle school students about the benefits, affordability, and availability of clean energy solutions, the program has established a reputation as a successful educational program for thousands of students.

Since the 2009 launch of Education Day:

  • D+R has raised over $1M in funding for the program
  • More than 340,000 teachers have participated in the D+R Solar Decathlon educational outreach efforts
  • More than 25,000 students have participated in the Education Days
"From developing and organizing outreach programs to obtaining vital corporate sponsorships, D+R International has played a pivotal role in the success of Solar Decathlon. Every dollar spent on a student’s introduction to energy technologies is an investment that pays back for decades. Considering more than 25,000 students have enjoyed a day with the teams because of D+R’s efforts, integration of solar technologies—rather than being a futuristic concept in a textbook—are an everyday part of their lives."
—Lani Macrae, U.S. Department of Energy