The students on SciTech-San Diego High School’s Solar Cup team overcame a few electrical challenges with their solar powered boat during the endurance race at this year’s Solar Cup event to place second in the Southern Region. The team also placed second in the Southern Region for their public service announcement focused on being water wise all year long.
Solar Cup is a seven-month program, sponsored by The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, that begins in the fall, in which 39 high school teams build and race solar-powered boats at Lake Skinner, in Temecula Valley. The competition helps the more than 800 students involved learn about conserving natural resources, electrical and mechanical engineering, problem solving and much more. Teams are entered and sponsored by Metropolitan member agencies and local water utilities.
On the water, the team's sprint race time improved by almost 10 seconds from last years’ time for the short, 200-meter race and the team’s three technical reports received almost a perfect score of 72 out of 75 points.
Single-seat boats, 16-feet-long, are built from kits of marine-grade plywood provided by Metropolitan. Teams equip the boats with steering, solar panels, batteries and motors producing up to 320 watts. Maximum weight, including skipper, is 450 pounds. Returning teams must build new boats each year, but may use equipment from previous boats.
Boat speeds in the 200-meter sprint races — in which the solar panels are removed and power comes from solar-charged batteries — can reach up to 15 miles per hour. The endurance race is won by the boat that circles the 1.6k course the most times during the two, 90-minute heats. According to the event sponsors, students have said that participating in Solar Cup encouraged them to go to college, and to pursue careers in engineering or environmental sciences.
The Solar Cup also includes a video competition and SciTech students placed second in their region. Their video, with elementary students as the primary audience, used student-designed, drawn and animated pictures to tell the water-saving story.