Cooper Solar Decathlon Team's Sure We Can Design Secures Finalist Position

POSTED ON: February 29, 2024


Over the weekend, Cooper Union’s Solar Decathlon team delivered a virtual presentation to a panel of jurors at the 2024 Solar Decathlon Design Challenge Semifinal and secured a place as a finalist under the Multifamily Building Division. Among twenty teams competing in the multifamily division, only ten advanced to compete in the finals that will be held April 19 to 21 at the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) in Golden, CO. 

Last year, The Cooper Union's Solar Decathlon team competed at NREL and was awarded the 2023 US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon Design Challenge Competition Commercial Grand Prize. The annual Solar Decathlon Design Challenge allows students to collaborate in multidisciplinary teams to develop innovative and high-performance building designs that tackle real-world issues related to climate change, affordability, and environmental justice.  

The team's latest project design is for a new seven-story building for Sure We Can, New York City's only nonprofit and homeless-friendly bottle redemption center. The Cooper team's multi-use, multifamily concept was selected based on their performance in addressing ten Solar Decathlon contests. These encompassed architecture, engineering, presentation, market analysis, durability/resilience, embodied environmental impact, integrated performance, occupant experience, comfort, environmental quality, and energy efficiency. 

The Cooper Solar Decathlon team is supported by the IDC Foundation and includes students from the Albert Nerken School of Engineering and The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture. Students who worked on the design include Kyle Ku A’26, Bram Cherner A’26, Miles Xue A’26, Mizanul Hoque ME’25, Amelia Roopnarine ME’25, Rachel Zhao ME’27, Hengnan Ma BSE’24, Zephaniah Christopher Chukwuwueze Odidika EE’25, Sophia Zhao CE’24, Eliyas Encarnacion CE’24, Jenna Manfredi CE’24, Vito Di Gregorio CE’26, Larry Zeng CE’26, Valerie Casas CE’26, Mariano Vinas CE’26, and Shuyao Zheng CE’24. Faculty advisors include Melody Baglione, professor and George Clark Chair of Mechanical Engineering; David Wootton, professor of mechanical engineering; Julián Palacio, assistant professor adjunct in the school of architecture; and Cosmas Tzavelis, professor and George Fox Chair of Civil Engineering.

Special thanks for additional support from faculty co-advisors Pamela Cabrera, Samuel Anderson, Mokena Makeka, Ashok Raiji, Manny Feris, Shannon Kaplan, Florian Meier, Chris Hartmann (Sure We Can), Paul Garrin, and Christina Weiler (Loisaida). 

Further details and project description on Sure We Can will be shared after the competition.


  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.