Engineering Team Takes Fourth World Title

by Public Relations Office — Cedarville, Ohio

Continuing a strong tradition, Cedarville University secures the Solar Splash® world championship for the fourth time. Cedarville’s Solar Splash® engineering team outpaced universities from three different countries in the 12-boat field at the World Championship of Intercollegiate Solar Boating, held in Fayetteville, Arkansas, June 18–22.

Although Cedarville’s Solar Splash® entry is typically a senior design project, the 2008 team was comprised entirely of underclassmen, an unusual and possibly intimidating challenge. Team member Tim George reveals how this factor ended up helping the individual team members. “Having only underclassmen on the team actually benefited us because it meant we had to learn a lot on our own,” he says. “What could have been a barrier actually became one of our assets.”

Overcoming obstacles is no new task for these engineering students. It’s what they do every day. Dr. Timothy Dewhurst, advisor of the Solar Splash® project and professor of engineering, explains how the project functions with the engineering major. “Our students are not taught how to design boats in the classroom,” says Dewhurst. “We just say, ‘Here is a problem. Come up with a solution and implement it.’ We want our students, when working in industry and given an assignment they haven’t encountered before, to be able to research it and have the confidence to come up with a solution.”

And come up with solutions they do. In fact, everything about the Solar Splash® team seems to be a solution to myriad technological problems. Elements like the breakthrough hull design and self-made propellers are what give Cedarville’s team an edge when facing other schools. “Based on our previous victories in the competition, the potential to win was there,” says team member Jason Lentz. “But we weren’t sure if we had made sufficient modifications to stay ahead of the competition for another year.”

On their way to Fayetteville, Arkansas, the site of the competition, the 2008 Solar Splash® team recognized that a single mistake, a single misfire could cost them the championship. Tim George ’09 skippered the craft, while Mordecai Veldt ’09, Krista Kroninger ’11 and Hannah Jones ’11 served as the support team and pit crew at the competition.

Though Cedarville’s team placed well in most of the events, the last race would determine this year’s champion. Heading into the final event, the 300-meter sprint worth 250 points, Cedarville had a slim 14-point lead over Istanbul Technical University (Turkey). This event was dominated by the University of Arkansas, leaving Cedarville and Istanbul to battle for second place but with the overall championship trophy at stake. The battle was close as Cedarville eked out 0.09 points ahead of Istanbul.

When the spray had settled, Cedarville had won its fourth world championship with a record-setting 978 points, beating its previous record established in 2007 of 974 points. Istanbul was a close second with 964 points, while Arkansas was third with 919 points. In all, Cedarville’s team placed first in the qualifying and solar endurance competitions and tied for the most points in visual display. The team also placed second in solar slalom and the technical report aspect of the competition and tied for second in workmanship.

George is quick to give credit to whom credit is due. “It was odd being there and being the best,” he says. “Going into the competition, I thought we were merely going to get some good practice for next year. Now, I realize that our victory is owed not only to our team’s efforts but also to previous Cedarville students’ diligent work and Dr. Dewhurst and other professors’ devotion to the project.”

The Cedarville Solar Splash® team plans to modify the boat significantly in the coming year, hoping to retain their position as world champions and to participate in other international competitions. The incoming team of seniors is now making plans to design and test new hydrofoils, a component that would increase the boat’s speed by causing the hull to fly above the water’s surface. In addition to these modifications, the team will also benefit from the experience already gained by members Tim George and Mordecai Veldt. “It was very helpful learning the demands of the competition, gaining practice in each event and getting a feel for how much effort this competition will take,” says George.

Considering how well the team competed this year, we look forward to what the coming year will bring for Cedarville’s Solar Splash® team. “It’s really up to the students,” summarizes Dewhurst. “If they’re going to invest in this project and really give of themselves, then we can expect a great year to come.”