Metropolitan Water District’s 15th annual Solar Cup™ competition gives students hands-on learning opportunities in conservation, engineering
Teams of high school students from across Southern California will put their engineering and building skills to the test this weekend as they race the solar-powered boats they spent the last seven months building as part of the Metropolitan Water District’s 15th annual Solar Cup™.
The nation’s largest solar-powered boating competition, this year’s Solar Cup includes more than 700 students on teams from 43 high schools from Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties. They will race in sprint and endurance races at Metropolitan’s Lake Skinner in southwest Riverside County’s Temecula Valley beginning Friday, May 19 and concluding Sunday, May 21.
The weekend marks the culmination of a seven-month program in which the students designed and built 16-foot, single-seat boats, powered only by the sun. Along the way, they were taught hands-on lessons in water resources, alternative energy development and sustainability while applying math, science and engineering lessons they learned in the classroom.
“These students have learned a lot in the classroom as well as in hands-on technical training workshops held by Metropolitan. They’ve worked together building and brainstorming. Now they’ll have a chance to put all that training and teamwork to use in a fun and exciting competition,” said Solar Cup coordinator Julie Kalbacher, a state-certified teacher with Metropolitan’s education programs. “Learning about renewable energy and water conservation in a program like this often inspires a lifelong interest in science and math.”
The hope is that some of the students will go on to careers in engineering, alternative energy development, resource management, environment sciences or other related fields, Miller said.
“Solar Cup offers valuable lessons to all students—requiring them to think creatively and critically to find practical solutions to challenges and then put those solutions to use, like they will have to in the real world,” she added.
Over the past 15 years, more than 10,000 students have participated in Solar Cup. The program began in 2002 with eight teams and about 80 students. In the years since, it has grown into the nation’s largest solar-powered boat competition.
Students began building their boats last fall and have worked with their sponsoring Metropolitan member and local water agencies to equip the boats with solar panels, batteries, electrical systems, drive trains, propellers and rudders. They’ve worked nights and weekends since to maximize their boats’ endurance, speed and mechanical and electrical efficiencies.
Teams are put through a series of qualifying events by Metropolitan and a technical advisory team from Occidental College to ensure boats meet the program’s requirements and are safe and seaworthy.
On Friday, May 19 the boats will be qualified and tested on Lake Skinner. The competition begins Saturday, May 20, when the teams face off in two 90-minute endurance heats around a 1.6-kilometer course and continues Sunday, May 21, with 200-meter sprint races in which the boats are powered by solar energy stored in batteries.
Solar Cup culminates with an awards ceremony on Sunday afternoon. Trophies are awarded in veteran and rookie divisions for teams with the highest points, as well as to teams honored for “Hottest-Looking Boat,” teamwork and sportsmanship.
Among the 43 teams in this year’s Solar Cup are two schools participating for the first time. They will compete in a rookie division.
As part of the program, the teams also created compelling video and social media campaigns on the importance of water conservation. Teams produced either a 60-second, self-scripted conservation video or social media campaign under the theme, “Changing Climate, Lifelong Conservation.” In addition to the racing results, teams earn points from these public service messages, as well as technical inspections and completion of technical reports.
The races are open to the public and easily visible from the lake shoreline. The event takes place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. with free admission and parking. Lake Skinner is at 37701 Warren Road in the Temecula Valley community of Winchester in southwest Riverside County—about 10 miles northeast of the Rancho California Road exit off Interstate 15.
Learn more about Solar Cup at mwdh2o.com and here.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is a state-established cooperative of 26 cities and water agencies serving nearly 19 million people in six counties. The district imports water from the Colorado River and Northern California to supplement local supplies, and helps its members to develop increased water conservation, recycling, storage and other resource-management programs.