Cedarville Claims 4th-Straight Solar Splash Title

by Clem Boyd, Communications Content Manager

It’s a four-peat for Cedarville University! The World Championship of Solar Boating took place June 5-9 at the Clark County Fairgrounds Lake at Champions Park, and Cedarville took home its fourth title in a row.

Cedarville edged out the University of Puerto Rico - Mayaguez for the championship. This is the 11th victory for Cedarville in its 15 years participating in the event. Cedarville is the most successful program in the event’s 25-year history.

“They [The University of Puerto Rico--Mayaguez] suffered a difficult year with the hurricane damage but still managed to bring a great entry to Solar Splash,” noted Dr. Tim Dewhurst, senior professor of mechanical engineering and co-advisor to the Cedarville Solar Boat team.

Other schools competing included the University of New Orleans, the University of Sherbrooke (Quebec, Canada), Carnegie Mellon University, Stevens Institute of Technology, the University of New Mexico, Middle Tennessee State University, Lamar University, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Cal-Poly Pomona), the University of Dayton, and the University of Southern Indiana.

“We had teams from California to New Jersey, and from Canada to Texas,” Dewhurst said. “It was an honor to host such a great group of students from a wide range of backgrounds. Some of the teams that traveled the furthest brought the most people. About 15 came with the team from Lamar University in Texas, and the same number from the University of New Mexico.”

This year’s Cedarville team consisted of five recently graduated seniors: Josh Heanssler of Rockport, Maine; Will Heinig, Plain City, Ohio; Andrew Nelson, Buchanan, Michigan; Josh Schroepfer, Chesapeake, Virginia; and Jonathan Cox, Sao Paulo, Brazil.

“We’re trying to provide senior design students with a worthwhile senior design experience,” said Dr. Gerry Brown, associate professor of electrical engineering and co-advisor to the Cedarville Solar Boat team. “Every year we’re looking for some aspect of the boat project for each one of them to improve — propellers, motor, weight reduction, electronics, etc.”

Part of the educational experience of the solar boat team is also on-the-spot problem-solving, just like real-world engineering. This year, while demonstrating the boat for a local TV morning show, the electric motor shorted out. “It was toast a day before competition,” said Brown. “If we hadn’t put on the demo, the problem wouldn’t have popped up until we got to competition, and that would have been rough. As it was, we had a 24-hour notice. We were able to take it apart, find the problem and fix it that night.”

Solar Splash tests the engineering design and production skills of each team through a technical inspection and a series of on-water contests. Each team builds a piloted boat up to 6 meters long, powered by 480 watts of solar power and 1.3 kilowatt-hours of stored energy in batteries.

Teams earn points based on their performance in a qualifier, high-speed sprint race, long-endurance races and a slalom event. The event judges also review technical reports submitted by each team and a visual display, which factor into the final score.

Even though the competition is intense, there’s a camaraderie and helpful spirit that permeates the event. “This year, we gave a speed control dial to the Puerto Rican team,” Brown said. “Quebec’s team burnt out the brushes on their motor and we had some spares that would work perfectly. We often ask other teams for items too. We’re there to be good sportsmen, good competitors, work hard and be fair.”

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.