When I first read about the solar energy boat race, Solar Splash, I was immediately intrigued. Though I don't like open waters; therefore, will not get on a boat, the combination of solar energy and cleaner transportation in competition has had me tempted to face my fears and give these solar powered boats a try. I think it's an innovative idea with wonderful educational opportunities and a great start to the building and using of non-polluting, fuel-free vehicles (land, water and air) of the future.
Solar Splash is an intercollegiate student design solar/electric boat competition where students design solar/electric boats to compete in various events. Events include: Technical Report (90pts), Visual Display (40pts), Workmanship (20pts), Qualifying Performance Event (100pts), Slalom Performance Event (100pts), Sprints Performance Event (250pts), and Endurance Performance Event (400pts). The total points a team can earn is 1000.
Each boat only has one skipper, the competition lasts 5 days (Wednesday-Sunday) and it is held every year usually at the end of June. The size of the boat size is limited to 6 meters in length and there is a 480 Watts maximum restriction in the solar panels. Sunlight is the only power source allowed for momentum. Batteries can be used, but only if they are charged by the solar panels.
"The objective of the ASME-sponsored Solar Splash is to promote the construction and competition of a solar-powered boat which can be built within a school year at a reasonable cost," according to Jeffrey H. Morehouse. Solar Splash has been in existence since 1994 to promote solar energy education and it invites college teams from around the world to compete. Any 2 year or 4 year college, university, vocational school or high school is eligible to compete so long as they can afford to. Unfortunately cost and time can be a problem for some students as it is up to them to raise the money for the construction of their solar powered boat and travel expenses.
For the first 6 years Solar Splash was held in Wisconsin. In 2000, Solar Splash was held in New Orleans. From 2001 to 2005, Solar Splash was held in Buffalo, New York. 2006 and 2007 was held in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The competition is continuously moved around the country, "to allow travel costs to be spread more evenly among the schools over the years and to get more schools involved when the competition is closer, and more visible, to them," according to Mr. Morehouse. The location for Solar Splash 2008 has yet to be announced.
This year Cedarville University won the Solar Splash competition of 2007, but not only did they win they scored 974 points out of the 1000 points available in the competition. 974.05 points is the new record score. The University of Arkansas came in second with 895.43 points.
The next school year is about to begin. If you are interested in participating in the 2008 Solar Splash competition or just want to know more about it email Jeffrey Morehouse, the Solar Splash Organizer, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also view the online 2007 Solar Splash photo gallery.