December 7, 2010, a day that will live in memory, as opposed to infamy, for winners from New York Institute of Technology’s (NYIT) Student Design Competition held at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. Students were charged with creating a sustainable airplane hangar on the deck of the floating museum for under $1 million. Chosen among the six finalists, Team Alphabet Soup walked away with the $3,000 prize by incorporating renewable energy into the design and developing a educational environment for museum visitors.
After several years of participating in the Solar Decathlon sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, the school decided to take that interdisciplinary model on the road, or river, as the case may be. The Intrepid currently maintains and restores their collection of 30 aircrafts inside a white plastic tent on deck. A former NYIT alumnus who works for the museum lobbied for the school’s participation in a redesign. As an extracurricular activity, the contest supplemented student coursework with the faculty acting as coaches.
“The students got a taste of what a real jury looks like. That was real pragmatic,” said Associate Dean Frank Mruk of a stone-faced jury made up of museum and school officials.
“The judges were the real world experience,” agreed the winning team leader Luke Ferland. “But we were up for it. They were really engaged with the structure.”
The winning concept riffs on the ship’s history with five descending tiers of the structure representing the five kamikaze attacks that the ship sustained during the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. The hangar rises toward the superstructure of the ship leaving a 28-foot gap between itself and the command control tower. Catwalks and deck side windows furnish visitors with a glimpse of the restoration process. A multipurpose interior space allows for rental income and provides an enviable perch from which to view Fourth of July fireworks. The matte gray structure provides 130% renewable energy through wind turbines and solar panels.
“We’re kind of using the ship as a grid,” said Ferland. “We gave the ship the ability to siphon off the extra energy.” The winning design will become the basis for senior level design classes in engineering, computing sciences and architecture. Ultimately, students will finalized the design with Ted Moudis Associates, sponsors of the competition. Mruk said he expects the museum to start building the new hanger by late next year. He added that the ultimate reward for students remains in the effort. Participant Colin Joyce agreed: “I haven’t slept in five days. No joke.”