All Posts Tagged With: "University of Maryland"

What’s Wrong With a Good, Juicy, Audacious Goal?

photo of LEAFHouse on the National Mall by Amy Gardner

I’ve been wondering lately — why do some people shy away from embracing ambitious goals? What’s the hesitation? I don’t think it comes from a lack of vision, because I’ve worked with some visionary people who still balk at publicly declaring an audacious goal. Is it fear? Lack of trust? Worry about falling short?

I have a wonderful client who shyly asked me to dial back on an energy model that was showing some pretty impressive projected energy savings from relatively straightforward measures. The numbers just looked too good to be true; the savings were "unbelievable." While I do understand the potential gulf between computer analysis and real-life performance, what we were proposing wasn’t rocket science. It should be very achievable, given good attention to construction details and sound building science.

In another instance, Baltimore’s Sustainability Plan process last summer went through rigorous community involvement, the working groups were loaded with rock stars in their respective fields, and the recommendations were so exciting I kept having to pinch myself at the meetings. In the end, what emerged is a comprehensive, workable plan — without a bold vision. I know it’s easy for me to second-guess, but I kept wishing we could have something as cool as Portland ‘s: Everyone can see Mt. Hood and every child can walk to a library. It’s so memorable, vivid, and dense with possibility.

Was it the fear of being held accountable by some stickler member of the general public? What if Baltimore set an ambitious goal and didn’t make it? Would it turn into a political firestorm? Was it not wanting to disappoint people, if the city somehow fell short of a big goal? I always see a bit of red flag when people start talking about getting "realistic." That word feels VERY limiting.

The other day I joined my colleagues for a radio interview about our experiences creating and competing LEAFHouse in the 2007 Solar Decathlon. It was wonderful to relive all the best stories about those two years, especially to be reminded of the importance of setting audacious goals. Very early on, we had a big team meeting with engineering and architecture students, mentors from several disciplines, the three faculty advisors, and alumni from the 2005 solar house team. One of our big touchstones was Kennedy’s speech on September 12, 1962 at Rice University, where he announced that we would be landing a man on the moon within the next decade. Continued

Biodiesel University

courtesy of: Biodiesel University

Biodiesel University, a non-profit organization affiliated with the University of Maryland, focuses on educating students, teachers and consumers about renewable energy and environmental stewardship, while also inspiring students to pursue careers in science and technology. Using biodiesel as a tangible example of a renewable energy technology, they offer middle and high school students hands-on sensory experiences encompassing the entire lifecycle of a biofuel, believing that these fun and technology-rich experiences will gain America a higher output of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) graduates.

On March 18, 2008, the metro (Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority) announced it would donate four of its dirtiest emissions transit buses to the university to be recycled into mobile teaching laboratories that will travel to schools, colleges and public events in the DC area and beyond. University founder and executive director Dan Goodman says the mobile labs will be “part classroom, part hands-on science center, and part theme park ride.” They will serve in part to educate visitors on the sustainability issues of food versus fuel, the carbon cycle, economic consequences, pollution, and land and water use. Continued