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Southland High School Students to Race with the Sun at Solar Cup


Metropolitan Water District’s solar-powered boat competition gives students hands-on learning opportunities in conservation, engineering, alternative energy

LOS ANGELES: Students from 38 high schools across Southern California will show off their boat-building and racing skills this weekend as they compete in Metropolitan Water District’s 16th annual Solar Cup™

The action-packed weekend marks the culmination of a seven-month program during which students used lessons in engineering and alternative energy to design and build one-person, solar-powered boats.

The more than 600 students participating in this year’s competition will face off in sprint and endurance races at Metropolitan’s Lake Skinner in southwest Riverside County’s Temecula Valley beginning this Friday, May 18, and concluding Sunday, May 20.

Solar Cup is the nation’s largest solar-powered boating competition, featuring students from Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties. The program gives students the opportunity to put to practical use their math and science skills and provides them additional hands-on lessons in water resources, alternative energy development and sustainability.

“We’re creating future engineers, water resource managers and conservationists. We’re helping build Metropolitan’s future workforce,” said Solar Cup coordinator Julie Kalbacher, a state-certified teacher with Metropolitan’s education programs.

“But even more importantly, we’re getting students thinking on their feet, working in teams to find practical solutions. Those are valuable skills in any field,” she added.

To build their 16-foot, single-seat boats, veteran teams are given $2,500 and rookie teams are given $4,000, through sponsorships from Metropolitan’s member agencies. Students spent afternoons and weekends for months building the boats, deciding which solar panels, batteries, motors, propellers and other components to buy for their boats, and then figuring out how to arrange those components—all with the goal of creating the fastest boat possible. Boats are limited to 320 watts in their solar panels and face a handful of other technical restrictions, but there is a lot of flexibility in how they can be built, Kalbacher said.

“There is not one right way to do this. The answer requires creative and critical thinking. That’s the kind of challenge these kids will face in the real world,” she said.

“And sometimes once teams get to Lake Skinner and get their boats out on the water, they find themselves facing last-minute problems as the competition unfolds—a loose wire, the boat taking on unexpected water—and they have to troubleshoot while the pressure is on,” Kalbacher added.

But before they hit the water, 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 18, the boats will be qualified and tested on Lake Skinner. The competition begins Saturday, May 19, when the teams face off in two 90-minute endurance heats around a 1.6-kilometer course and continues Sunday, May 20, with 200-meter sprint races in which the boats are powered by solar energy stored in batteries.

Solar Cup concludes 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 38 teams in this year’s Solar Cup are five schools participating for the first time. They will compete in a rookie division.

As part of the program, the teams also created social media campaigns on the importance of water conservation. Teams produced Snapchat-based videos and photo campaigns under the theme, “Water conservation: it’s not about the weather, it’s about forever.” Along with racing results, teams earn points from these public service messages, as well as technical inspections and completion of technical reports.

Over the past 16 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.

Learn more about Solar Cup at mwdh2o.com.

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.

List of 2018 Solar Cup Teams

Member Agency Sponsor Team/School Name School District City
Anaheim Public Utilities Anaheim High School Anaheim Union HS District Anaheim
Burbank Water & Power Burbank High School Burbank USD Burbank
Long Beach Water Department Cabrillo High School** Long Beach USD Long Beach
Las Virgenes MWD

Calabasas High School

Las Virgenes USD Calabasas
Inland Empire Utilities Agency* Chino High School Chino Valley USD Chino
Municipal Water District of Orange County* Coast High School Huntington Beach Union HS District Huntington Beach
City of Compton Compton High School Compton USD Compton
Municipal Water District of Orange County* Costa Mesa High School** Newport Mesa USD Costa Mesa
San Diego County Water Authority Del Lago Academy Escondido Unified HS District Escondido
Central Basin MWD Downey High School Downey USD Downey
Western MWD* Elsinore HS / Lakeside HS Lake Elsinore USD Wildomar
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Franklin High School Los Angeles USD Los Angeles
Three Valleys MWD* Fremont Academy of Engineering & Design Pomona USD Pomona
Three Valleys MWD* Ganesha High School Pomona USD Pomona
Eastern MWD Hemet USD Team Hemet USD Hemet
San Diego County Water Authority High Tech High North County San Marcos USD San Marcos
Pasadena Water & Power John Muir High School Pasadena USD Pasadena
San Diego County Water Authority + San Diego USD San Diego
Foothill MWD* La Cañada High School La Cañada USD La Cañada Flintridge
Upper San Gabriel Valley MWD Los Altos High School Hacienda La Puente USD Hacienda Heights
Inland Empire Utilities Agency* Los Osos High School Cucamonga School District Rancho Cucamonga
Long Beach Water Department McBride High School Long Beach USD Long Beach
West Basin MWD Mira Costa High School Manhattan Beach USD Manhattan Beach
Upper San Gabriel Valley MWD Mountain View High School El Monte Union HS District El Monte
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Narbonne High School Los Angeles USD Harbor City
Western MWD* Norte Vista High School Riverside USD Riverside
Eastern MWD Nuview Bridge Early College HS Nuview Union School District Nuevo
Municipal Water District of Orange County* Oxford Academy Cypress School District Cypress
West Basin MWD Palos Verdes Peninsula High School Palos Verdes Peninsula USD Rolling Hills Estates
Central Basin MWD Paramount High School West Paramount USD Paramount
Eastern MWD Perris Union High SD Team (Heritage HS; Paloma Valley HS; Perris HS) Romoland School District Romoland
Western MWD* Riverside Poly High School Riverside USD Riverside
Three Valleys MWD San Dimas High School Bonita USD San Dimas
Long Beach Water Department Sato High School Long Beach USD Long Beach
Inland Empire Utilities Agency* Upland High School**

Chaffey Joint Union High SD

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Venice HS STEMM Magnet Los Angeles USD Los Angeles
West Basin MWD Waterfront Education** Los Angeles USD Redondo Beach
Upper San Gabriel Valley MWD West Covina High School West Covina USD West Covina
* = has co-sponsor(s)
** = Rookie
Anand Gupta Editor - EQ Int'l Media Network


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