Elizabeth Saliba’s journey toward designing a more sustainable future began during her first year at Washington University in St. Louis, when she learned about the Solar Decathlon.

She was struck by a picture of the Lotus House — an energy-efficient residence shaped like a lotus flower that served as Team WashU’s 2018 project — and instantly knew she wanted to become involved. The Solar Decathlon, started by the U.S. Department of Energy, challenges students across the globe to design low-carbon buildings powered by renewable energy.

After declaring her major in mechanical engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering, she was ready to jump in.

“I reached out to Professor Hongxi Yin, who leads the Solar Decathlon, and he immediately took me under his wing,” Saliba said.

Her first experience in Yin’s class was working alongside graduate architecture students designing modular classroom prototypes for an elementary school south of St. Louis. This semester, she is part of the group designing a net-zero energy occupational therapy clinic to be built on Delmar Boulevard. Her team’s focus is designing the mechanical system and solar rooftop array, she said.

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