Solar Team Make Splash in Netherlands

by Kaitlyn Coughlin, Public Relations Writer

Cedarville University’s Elmer W. Engstrom Department of Engineering and Computer Science has claimed another success at the DONG Energy Solar Challenge in the Netherlands, finishing highest among all university boats and third overall in the competition.

The DONG Energy Solar Challenge is a design competition where student and professional engineers strive to create maneuverable, efficient and fast solar-powered boats. The Solar Challenge, unofficially known as the World Cup for Solar Powered Boats, held its first competition in 2006. Cedarville engineering students competed in Class A in 2006 and successfully won second place in the challenge. Class A is the competition with single drivers, Class B has two drivers and the Top Class competitors construct and navigate larger and faster boats during the competition.

During July 8-14, the team of 11 senior engineering students advised by professor of mechanical engineering Timothy Dewhurst, Ph.D., competed against numerous collegiate, scholastic and industrial solar boat teams from all around the world. Competing in the Top Class category, and the highest tier of competition, Cedarville was the only team from the United States to participate in the challenge.

Student team leader Benjamin Yeh ’12 shared that the highlight of his trip was interacting with the other teams.

“Professionally, I was able to discuss technical design and performance of the boats, learning how their systems worked and describing ours,” Yeh said. “This gave our team ideas for future improvements and better designs.”

Yeh said that the competition and success of this project have been the highlight of his college career.

“It’s given me a better start at working on or running a project,” Yeh said. “It’s given me experience that I will be applying to my job and has also helped me see more clearly some of my career goals and what I want to pursue in the future. And it’s shown me how I can use my career as an engineer to serve the Lord and reach out to others.”

Yeh also said that although his team had a much smaller budget than some of the others at the competition, it was able to develop an effective entry that outperformed some of the more expensive boats and kept pace with some of the best solar boat teams in the world.

Cedarville’s engineers have demonstrated the University’s leadership in solar energy development through its success at other competitions as well. Cedarville’s team has won six first-place awards in the Solar Splash World Championship since 2004. The Solar Splash competition is an international competition held annually in the U.S. and is unrelated to the DONG Energy Challenge. The teams also won awards competing in Class A of the Frisian Solar Challenge in 2006, which is a six-day test of endurance against some of Europe’s finest universities, corporations and boat makers.