Science, Technology, Engineering & Math | News

Teams from 39 Southern California Schools Prepare for Solar Boat Races

Student teams from 39 Southern California high schools are putting the finishing touches on solar-powered vessels they will operate over a three-day cycle of racing on Lake Skimmer, just north of Temecula, CA, beginning May 18.

Billed as "the nation's largest solar-powered boat competition," The Metropolitan Water District's Solar Cup includes students from high schools in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Ventura counties. Contestants will apply their skills in math, physics, engineering, and communications over three days to compete and gain a better understanding of environmental resources such as solar power and water management, the event's sponsors said.

"What makes this competition so unique compared to other science-based events is that it's interdisciplinary. It not only fits science, technology engineering, and math core curriculum guidelines, but it also integrates the environmental sciences, along with visual and language arts, into the program's learning objectives," Solar Cup coordinator Julie Miller, a state-certified teacher in Metropolitan's education programs said in a news release.
In addition to the team-building aspects of the competition, students are also encouraged to understand the environmental sciences, including water resource management, conservation, and alternative energy development.

Teams qualify through events on the first day overseen by Metropolitan and a technical advisory team from Harvey Mudd and Occidental colleges who ensure that boats are both within the rules and seaworthy. The second day features single seat, solar-powered 16-foot crafts equipped with solar collection panels competing in endurance races around a 1.6 kilometer course. On the last day of the competition, the collection panels are removed and the students compete in 200-meter Sprint races powered by solar energy stored in batteries.

Teams are given trophies for winners in veteran and rookie team divisions, "hottest looking boat," teamwork, and sportsmanship.

"While each team competes under the same set of program rules, the students are able to develop their own research and development approaches and timeline," Miller said of the event which launched in 2002 with just eight boats and has since included 8,000 students and their crafts.

More information is available at

About the Author

Jerry Bard is a freelance technology writer. He can be reached at [email protected].