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Tiny Home is Fan Favorite

Monday, April 17, 2017

An RMU student team's business plan to build a "tiny home" on campus and give it to a charity for homeless veterans won the Fan Favorite award and a $5,000 prize at the regional finals of the U.S. Department of Energy Cleantech University Prize.

Junior Mary Funderlich and senior Dale Miller assumed their effort, which they call Minimus, was lucky enough to have made it to the regional finals on March 28. Competing against 24 opponents from across Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Maryland, including nine from tournament host Carnegie Mellon University, with entries like portable hydroelectric generators and robotic vertical farming, they did not expect to win.

So after Funderlich presented the 30-second elevator pitch to the audience, she and Miller went to the back of the auditorium to have a snack. When they heard their names announced as Fan Favorite, they ran to the stage to accept the award.

“It’s significant because we got a lot of publicity to angel investors and incubators.  It will help increase the reach of our message and hopefully help us gain more partners,” Funderlich said.

Funderlich and Miller came up with the the idea in their honors seminar course on sustainability, and applied for the Cleantech Prize in December. Under the guidance of management professor Marcel Minutolo, Funderlich and Miller created a business plan to build the house and donate it to Veteran’s Place of Washington Boulevard, a local charity for homeless veterans. They forged a partnership with CMU, bringing a professor and graduate student on board their team.

The team plans to begin construction on the tiny home soon in the parking lot outside of Jefferson Center on RMU’s campus.

“The process of really building something with my hands and seeing all of our work come to life will be something I will truly enjoy every moment of,” Miller said.


 - Written by Megan DeArmit