Top speeds may only be 30 mph. But this doesn’t take away from the nail biting excitement for those cheering at water’s edge; watching their collegiate team’s solar powered boat vie for position.
“It gets tense,” said Dr. Tim Dewhurst, senior professor of mechanical engineering and faculty advisor for Cedarville University’s solar boat team, which led the effort to bring the 20th annual World Solar Splash competition to Ohio this year.
Dewhurst should know. Cedarville University just happens to be the most decorated participant in Solar Splash history, having won the Collegiate World Championship seven out of the last ten years. Next month, with the Wright Brother’s first bicycle shop as backdrop, Dewhurst will see his team race on home turf June 11-15 at Eastwood Park in Dayton, Ohio.
The five-day event, which attracts universities from around the world, will again test the teams of engineering student’s design and production skills through a technical inspection and a series of on-the-water competitions. Currently, in addition to Cedarville University, other teams that will participate include: the University of Dayton, Stony Brook University, The College of New Jersey, Middle Tennessee State University, Geneva College, Cal-Poly Pomona, the University of South Carolina, the University of Arkansas, and the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez.
Prior to arriving at the competition, each team is required to produce, either by building, buying, or receiving parts, a piloted boat up to 18 feet in length powered by 480 Watts of solar power with 1 kW-hr of stored energy in batteries.
Dewhurst is also hoping to have elementary and middle school students at the event. He expects to introduce a Junior Solar Splash event this year, a model solar boat competition competition for elementary and middle school students. He said, “I hope to run this as a pilot project with a few schools this year and have the races during Solar Splash at Eastwood Park.”
Dewhurst said that Cedarville’s team is unique in how much of the boat they build themselves. He said that the teams winning streak began with a student designed hull. Dr. Robert Chasnov, senior professor of engineering said, “The result of one student doing a design of the hull made it so uniquely perfect that it allowed our team to win.
Since then, the work that the students have done is to make it smoother and faster and more streamlined.” Chasnov said other teams took notice of Cedarville’s design and replicated it.
“Every time we win a competition [other teams] take pictures so that they can replicate what we did the previous year, which requires us to stay ahead by just that much,” he said. “And that’s the group of students we end up having. They have the ability to be creative, do more and make things better as they work in conjunction with the faculty.”
Dewhurst noted that having the competition in Dayton will add exposure to the world-class event and also ties in well with Ohio’s goal of advancing innovation with renewable energy sources.