Skip to main content
Print Bookmark and Share


Solar Decathlon Team Finds Home at ‘Joe’s Inn’

By Blaine P. Friedlander Jr.

Joe Manelski
Jason Koski/University Photography

Joe Manelski ‘56 welcomes the entire Cornell Solar Decathlon team to his home in McLean, Va.

For nearly three weeks at the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2009 Solar Decathlon competition, almost 150 student members of Cornell’s team cycled in and out of Washington, D.C. Some stayed for two days, some for two weeks, but one thing was certain: almost everybody stayed at Joe’s.

Joe Manelski ’56 owns a large home in McLean, a comfortable Virginia suburb of Washington. His neighbors have been cabinet members and Kennedys. During the biennial contest, the Cornell Solar Decathlon team made Joe’s house Joe’s Inn.

“These students worked very hard, and they needed a place to relax. The students needed to network. There were hundreds of mini-meetings between the team leaders and the team members. It strengthened their esprit de corps and helped them achieve their objective,” says Manelski.

Cornell students curled up on sofas to complete homework, they conducted research on their computers, and they updated their Facebook accounts. Others hung out in the swimming pool and in the hot tub in their off hours.

College students are much like piranhas during feeding time. The team’s pipe fitter, Scott Albrecht, Cornell plumber and general foreman, doubled as the team’s sous chef for breakfast and dinner. Albrecht and Manelski produced delicious meals fit for a small army. (Manelski knows about serving armies. He served in the U.S. Navy as a commissary officer, stocking food for his ship’s half-year missions.)

Sean Tamon (Hotel ’08), a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, prepared the team’s two dinners required by the competition.

Manelski admires these hardworking students, who worked late into the night on the eve of competition. He delivered dinner, made by Kim Epstein, a Cornell parent who lives nearby, to the Cornell Silo House on the Mall.

“There I was,” he says, “sitting on the Mall—between the brightly lit Capitol building and the brightly lit Washington Monument—under a full moon with these great students. It was awesome. That’s a memory you don’t forget.” Among the CALS students on the team were two subteam leaders, Claire Moloney ’11 and Morgan Ellithorpe ’10, and a specialist, Adi Potashnick ’10. CALS professor Cliff Scherer served as an advisor for the team’s communications, while CALS professors Daniel Simon and Pedro Perez advised the student team on business matters.