Updated: Sep 20, 2019
Four of our team members headed to Morocco for the kick off of SDA. This is how it happened.
It was with a bit of uncertainty that we started our long journey from Cape Town to Morocco in May 2018 to attend the briefing session and official kick off of Solar Decathlon Africa. Our group consisted of Sharné, or project manager, Mbali, our construction lead, Jesus, our health and safety lead and Adél (me), our marketing and communications lead.
This is the first time a team from Stellenbosch University is accepted to participate at Solar Decathlon and we weren't entirely sure what to expect, but we knew all would be revealed in Morocco.
It took us 24 hours to get from Cape Town to Marrakesh, which is a long time considering we share a continent. Our somewhat tired bodies didn't, however, prevent us from heading straight to Jemaal al-fna to enjoy our first taste of Morrocan tea, plump dates, jus d'orange, and patisserie. If this was the sort of treatment we'd be getting this weekend, everything was going to be great!
Solar Decathlon Africa kick off
We spent the next two days in a different kind of place to the Medina of Marrakesh. The Benguerir Green Energy Park is a place of innovation, clean energy, and technology. Of course, being sustainability students, we were thrilled to be surrounded by solar panels!
Perhaps the thing that struck us the most during the welcoming speeches, media launch, panel discussions and training sessions was the absolute magnitude and international stature of the Solar Decathlon. Living in a place where no one has heard of it, we were overwhelmed by presentations showing the same university's entries dating back to 2002. We sat in awe at the sort of sponsorships and industry participation teams received, the size of some of the teams, and the academic guidance and leadership they got from their universities.
While we learnt a lot during the weekend on streamlining our designs and plans, the most important takeaway was that it is truly an honour and a privilege to be a part of Solar Decathlon. We were ready to head home and tell our peers, faculty members, and potential industry partners that they shouldn't hesitate for a second about getting involved with Team Mahali.
A day of fun and reflection
After the two intense days in Beguerir, we took a last day to unwind, regroup, and enjoy the Marrakesh Medina some more. We booked a traditional riad in the very centre of it all and marvelled at the architecture - the steal trims, tiling, courtyard with its water feature and lemon tree, and narrow, elegant bedrooms. We spent the day perusing the markets, having tea and espresso on rooftop terraces, and making plans for Mahali's future.
Mahali going forward
It is almost two months since our trip and we've since expanded our team, created our initial house design, secured commitment from the Sustainability Institute where we study, had our first round of funder meetings, and set up our website. We are aware of the hard work still in store, but we are ready for the challenge.