Class of 2014 to present University with solar panels

GIllian Feehan, Writer

While the senior class gift will not officially be announced until senior sunset at the end of April, the news that the senior class is installing solar panels has begun to spread throughout campus.

The senior class traditionally gives a gift to the University before graduation. In recent years, these gifts have been permanent mementos of each class, such as the Class of 2012’s University seal on the quad. This year, the Class of 2014 has developed a gift that will actively give back to the University for years to come.

“[We] wanted to change the focus of what the gift was from something that was just a permanent plaque somewhere that you would walk by and see versus something that would actually give back to the University and also provide a great experience for whoever could be involved with it. Students have the opportunity to come out and help, [and] engineers are getting a great classroom experience,” Senior Executive Rachel Franz said.

Planning and creating the solar panels was not a simple task. Before officially starting the project, the senior class executives first consulted engineering professors about their idea. Then the senior executives essentially “hired” senior electrical engineering students to design the solar panels from scratch as part of their senior project. This way, seniors could give back to the University by designing and building their gift.

“The school uses the terms ‘living, learning, laboratory’—taking the classroom outside of the classroom—so we were really excited to be able to do that,” Senior Executive Emily Partridge said.

Although solar panels will benefit the University and the project planning exemplifies everything the University stands for, some seniors were skeptical of the project at first. Solar panels have a limited lifespan and therefore cannot be a permanent reminder of the Class of 2014’s impact on the campus.

“The reality of solar panels is that they’re not going to last forever—their lifespan is about 20 to 30 years—so we had to deal with explaining to people why we wanted to do something that is more short term, but we think it makes a bigger impact on the school and our grade to be able to do something interactive and different,” Partridge said.

The University has fully supported this senior gift, and in order to permanently commemorate the Class of 2014, the school will be creating a plaque to accompany the panels. Franz said that this plaque will commemorate the Class of 2014 and their gift and will give the seniors something tangible to come back to see in the future when the solar panels no longer exist.

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