Cedarville Boat Travels at “Light Speed”

by Hannah Fair. Public Relations Writer

At this racing competition, “light speed” takes on a whole new meaning. And Cedarville has been shining brightly as the 10-time champion.

On June 5-9, Cedarville will host the Collegiate Championship of Solar Boating, also known as Solar Splash, in the lake at Champions Park at the Clark County Fairground in Springfield, Ohio. This is the fifth year that Cedarville University will host the competition. About 20 teams from universities in Puerto Rico, Canada and all over the U.S. will compete.

Cedarville mechanical engineering seniors work on their solar panel and battery-powered boat as part of their senior project. Both Dr. Tim Dewhurst, senior professor of mechanical engineering, and Dr. Gerry Brown, associate professor of electrical engineering, lead the student team.

Cedarville is making two major changes to this year’s boat. First, the team is replacing the previously used solar panels with newer, lighter-weight panels. The old panels were no longer producing the allowable amount of solar power. Second, the team is replacing the separate drivetrains for the high-speed and the long-distance races with a single, lightweight, universal drivetrain that will work for both types of racing. Both of these changes will lead to a significant reduction in weight and a moderate increase in power.

“This project is far more extensive than just boats or solar power; it trains students to work with the state-of-the-art in the industry, as the auto industry is moving toward electric drive,” said Dewhurst. “This competition challenges the students to engineer a boat to go incredibly fast with very little power. If the students can learn to work within these constraints, then they can take on any job and be successful. They will graduate from Cedarville with confidence to do anything in their job fields.”

Cedarville began competing in Solar Splash in 1995. Since 2004, Cedarville has won the competition 10 times, including the past three years. In 2012, Cedarville was the top university in the DONG Energy Solar Challenge in the Netherlands.

“This project has fostered not only growth as an engineer, but in character. I encounter technical challenges on a daily basis, and it requires discipline and perseverance to keep a positive attitude and push forward,” said Andrew Nelson, senior mechanical engineering major from Buchanan, Michigan.

“I would not be where I am today if it were not for the countless hours my advisers and other faculty have poured into helping my learning experience. This competition is an opportunity to demonstrate the excellence of Cedarville's engineering program, but more importantly, to be a godly example and show Christ's love to the other teams.”

Maybe the most important aspect of the project has been the reminder to remain humble, noted Nelson. “When you're a world-class team with a history of success, it can be tempting to let pride get out of check,” he said. “But when you think about where your talents come from, the fact that we've had any success at all is a testament to God's grace and blessing on us.”

Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University is an accredited, Christ-centered, Baptist institution with an enrollment of 3,963 undergraduate, graduate, and online students in more than 150 areas of study. Founded in 1887, Cedarville is recognized nationally for its authentic Christian community, rigorous academic programs, strong graduation and retention rates, accredited professional and health science offerings, and leading student satisfaction ratings. For more information about the University, visit www.cedarville.edu.