Solar boat competition challenges students' science, engineering and math skills

'Solar Cup' held at Lake Skinner in Riverside

SAN DIEGO - Student teams from 39 high schools in San Diego County and across Southern California are getting ready for the nation's largest solar-powered boat competition next weekend, May 17–19, organizers said.

The Metropolitan Water District is sponsoring the 11th annual Solar Cup starting Friday at Lake Skinner, just north of Temecula in Riverside County.

High school teams are working on identical 16-foot-long hulls and kits with solar panels, batteries, electrical systems, drive trains, propellers and rudders supplied by the MWD. They use their engineering and math skills to maximize their boats' endurance, speed and mechanical and electrical efficiencies.

"Solar Cup brings together interdisciplinary student teams that strive to reach specific milestones throughout the school year," said Solar Cup coordinator Julie Miller, a state-certified teacher in the MWD's education programs. "Students are challenged by activities that complement curriculum in science, technology, engineering and math as well as the environmental sciences and visual arts programs.

The competition begins Friday, May 17 with qualifying events judged by MWD and a technical advisory team from Harvey Mudd and Occidental colleges. Saturday will feature single-seat, solar-powered 16-foot boats outfitted with solar-collection panels in endurance races around a 1.6-kilometer course.

Sunday will be highlighted by 200-meter sprint races in which the solar panels are removed and the boats are powered by solar energy stored in batteries. Trophies will be 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.

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 southwest Riverside County.

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