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PHOTO CAPTION: Solar Cup competitor in 200 yard sprint.

40 Teams Compete in Largest Solar Boat Competition

Solar Cup competition initiated in 2002 and features student built small boats powered by solar energy.

Published: 11-May-2011

The nation’s largest solar-powered boat competition launches this Friday, May 13 as 40 teams of high school students from throughout Southern California gather in southwest Riverside County for three days of racing as part of Metropolitan Water District’s Solar Cup™ program.

Teams from high schools (see accompanying list) in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura counties are participating in this ninth annual Solar Cup at Metropolitan’s Lake Skinner, just north of Temecula.

Friday, teams will be put through a series of qualifying events by Metropolitan and a technical advisory team from Occidental and Harvey Mudd colleges to ensure boats meet rules and are safe and seaworthy. 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 is highlighted by 200-meter sprint races—in which the solar panels are removed and the boats are powered by solar energy stored in batteries. The races will be followed by an awards ceremony, with trophies 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.

The races are easily visible from the shore, and the event 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, Winchester, in the Temecula Valley of southwest Riverside County—about 10 miles northeast of the Rancho California Road exit off Interstate 15.

“The seven-month Solar Cup program is truly a story of hard work, determination, teamwork and intellect,” said Solar Cup coordinator Julie Miller, a state-certified teacher in Metropolitan’s education programs. “What also is inspiring is the camaraderie. Even though high school teams are competing against one another, they also will pitch in to help each other.”

Since the inaugural event in 2002, more than 7,500 students have participated in Solar Cup. The program provides a team-based educational competition allowing students to apply their skills in math, physics, engineering and communications, while learning about Southern California’s water sources, resource management, and alternative energy development.

“In fact,” Miller said, “we are always pleased to hear that Solar Cup has played a role in students’ decisions to go on to college, and to pursue majors and careers in math, engineering, environmental studies and other science-related fields.”

In advance of the three-day event, teams are making final tweaks to their hand-built boats equipped with solar panels, motors, batteries and steering. Anaheim’s Canyon High School, two-time defending champions in the Solar Cup veterans division (also victorious in the 2003, ’04 and ’05 events) returns for this year’s competition. In addition to the veterans division, Solar Cup features a rookie division for first-time teams.

Winners are the teams with the highest number of points gained in the competitions, technical inspections, submission of three technical reports and creation of a public information project, which includes a public service announcement and presentation of a water-conservation or water-science activity.

In addition, Solar Cup will include 20-minute hands-on presentations by each team in the Activities Pavilion, focusing on a water conservation or science concept in which the audience can participate. There again will be a continual presentation of the teams’ 30-second, self-scripted and produced, conservation videos, audiotapes and/or brochures.

Event videos and photos from past Solar Cup events can be found under Education Programs at Metropolitan’s website, mwdh2o.com.

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