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|