Poly High Wins Solar Boat Contest

Poly High School students tied for first place recently in the nation’s largest solar- powered boat contest.

The Poly team earned the honor in the “veterans division” after repeatedly earning second place out of 40 teams every year since 2009. The students designed and built their own boat, again competing against 40 teams at Lake Skinner in the Temecula Valley of southwestern Riverside County. The Solar Cup event is sponsored by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

“The kids learn so much about conserving natural resources, problem-solving and teamwork. Those skills will serve them well as they continue to complete their educations and start their careers,” MWD General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said.

Poly tied in their division with Canyon High School of Anaheim at the 12th annual event.

The two winning schools were among teams representing MWD’s 5,200-square-mile service area that includes Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura counties.

Solar Cup is a school-year-long program in which students build, equip and race 16-foot, single-seat canoes powered only by the sun.

The competition allows students to apply their skills in math, physics, engineering and communications while learning about Southern California’s water resources, conservation and alternative energy development.

The event began on Friday, May 16 as MWD staff and a technical advisory team from Harvey Mudd and Occidental colleges ensured that boats met rules and were safe and seaworthy. The next day, the teams attached solar collection panels to the boats for 90-minute and one-mile endurance races. The following day, the heavy solar-collection panels were removed and, using solar energy stored in batteries, the boats raced down a 200-meter stretch.

Teams are sponsored by their local water agencies and other organizations to equip the crafts with solar panels, batteries, steering and related systems.

Poly’s team included seven girls and 13 boys from all grade levels. Team advisors are teachers Tamara Araya and Gregory Pepek.

The two teachers challenged the Poly students to complete a CAD (computer aided design - a detailed 3-D scale computer image) of a mount for a motor that has the ability to be adjusted at various angles, install the motor into the boat, test propellers and gear ratios to maximize speed, create a foot throttle, and build a wireless system that automatically transmits and graphs the amperage, voltage and speed of the boat to a computer.

SOLAR CUP – Poly High School senior Eric Brunner pilots his team's winning boat in the Solar Cup, sponsored by the Metropolitan Water District. Students designed the solar-powered boat using 3-D computer imaging, and they transmitted data wirelessly from the boat to a computer.