Engineering students recently raced in a unique competition where they saw their designs in action. Solar Splash is a solar electric boating competition that is sponsored by the IEEE’s Power Electronics Society. This year’s event was held June 15-19 in Dayton, Ohio, hosted by reigning champion Cedarville University.
To prepare for this annual competition, students studying mechanical or electrical engineering team up to design and build a solar-powered boat. At the final event, teams earn points in seven categories: technical reports, visual presentation, workmanship, solar slalom, sprint, maneuverability, and endurance.
The electrical engineers on each team designed and built solar arrays, made sure the output from the array and power from the batteries was regulated and controllable, and selected motors for their systems. They were also in charge of telemetry systems for monitoring the electrical and solar systems and managing the boat’s power strategy. The competition has several rules to limit any potential advantage that a very well-funded team would have: the boats are limited to 480 watts, and although storage batteries are allowed, they must be rechargeable lead-acid batteries.
The 2016 overall winning team was, once again, Cedarville University (they won the sprint, slalom, and endurance races), followed by second place Middle Tennessee State University and third place University of South Carolina.