Students Set Sail In Solar-Powered Boat Battle

Landlubbers from 39 high-schools across Southern California are getting ready to see if their ideas about powering a boat with nothing but sunlight will actually hold water. This weekend teams of teenagers from Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura counties will participate in three days of boat races as part of the Metropolitan Water District’s Solar Cup.

The Solar Cup is a team-based educational competition that allows students to apply their skills in math, physics, engineering and communications, while learning about Southern California’s water sources, resource management, conservation and alternative energy development.

Solar Cup 2011

image via Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

The weekend-long event will kick off with qualifying events and technical inspections to ensure boats meet rules and are safe and seaworthy. On Day 2, single-seat, solar-powered 16-foot boats outfitted with solar panels will compete in endurance races around a 1.6-kilometer course. On the final day, teams will participate in 200-meter sprint races—in which the solar panels are removed and the boats are powered by solar energy stored in batteries.

“While each team competes under the same set of program rules, the students are able to develop their own research and development approaches and timeline. This encourages innovation, organization and team-building,” Solar Cup coordinator Julie Miller, a state-certified teacher in Metropolitan’s education programs, said in a statement. “In addition, Solar Cup provides students with hands-on, real-world applications to solving today’s challenges in water, energy and in other green technologies like solar power.”

Want to see the boats up close? The races are easily visible from the shore at the event, which is open to the public 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.

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog