Bringing Home Trophies Not Plated with Gold

by Engineering Faculty

In recent years, the Cedarville University solar boating team has enjoyed great success,  bringing home the world championship Solar Splash trophy in five out of six years since 2004. Although they did not bring home the championship this summer, the team brought home many valuable engineering and life lessons.

Comprised of 13 senior mechanical engineering students and two faculty members, the team set high goals to improve upon the performance of their 2009 winning  Solar Splash entry. The goals included building a student-designed and student-constructed electric motor, a new power electronic drive system, new custom-designed and custom- machined propellers, and the design and construction of a brand-new boat to compete in another competition, the Frisian Solar Challenge in Europe.

Despite extraordinary efforts by the team members, it became apparent as the Solar Splash race approached that problems existed with the new designs that were going to require more testing and work than time permitted. So, the team decided to rely on the proven drive system from their 2009 boat. While the drive system performed well, earning the team a second-place ranking in the endurance event, another malfunction forced them to rely upon their endurance configuration for the sprint event, an event for which it was not designed. The final results put the team in fifth place in the overall competition.

After the Solar Splash competition, the team had just a few weeks before the deadline to pack up and ship the new boat to Europe for the Frisian Solar Challenge. As the deadline approached, it again became apparent that although the new boat was operational and handled beautifully, it was not ready for competition. The team made the difficult decision to withdraw from the Frisian Solar Challenge.

Although the results were disappointing, the lessons learned through research, design, manufacturing, testing, communication, and teamwork made the effort worthwhile. Through it all, the team remained committed to each other and their common goal.

Looking back, the team members have identified  multiple  key  factors  that contributed to their successes and struggles. By wading through the rough water and documenting the muddy path, this team not only has taken home golden life applications but has also been able to pass these lessons on to the next team. While they had hoped to win trophies, they agree that sometimes the more valuable trophies are the ones that they can take with them for the rest of their lives.

The engineering and computer science department is proud of the Solar Splash team’s accomplishments and congratulates them for all of their hard work, diligence, and character that they developed and displayed throughout the project.