Solar Boat Club enters third year of competition

By Robert Varga

The Cal Poly Pomona Solar Boat Club is designing and testing their new boat, building off of what they learned last school year at the 2012 Solar Splash competition. The Solar Boat Club finished in sixth place overall last June at Solar Splash, an improvement over their 10th place finish in 2011. The team also won several other awards at Solar Splash including Best Visual Display, Outstanding System Design and Outstanding Solar System Design.

The multi-day event is held in Waterloo, Iowa and is hosted by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Power Electronics Society. The teams are already preparing for next year’s event, which will be held from June 12-16.

The Cal Poly boat uses batteries charged by a solar panel array to power three brushless electric motors which run a propeller assembly. There are different setups of motors, batteries and solar panels that the team uses to compete in the different events such as sprint and endurance.

“The biggest lesson we learned from last year was the importance of testing,” said Andrew Scott, fourth-year Mechanical Engineering student and president of the Solar Boat Club. “Building a hull, drivetrain, solar system and data acquisition system from scratch left us little time for in-water testing. As a result, we ran into unexpected electrical problems at competition, which prevented us from running our boat to its full potential.”

According to Scott, the club’s plan this year is to try a new hull design, which will have greater performance in both sprint and endurance events at the competition. The club will be trying to make their electrical system more reliable while also reducing weight.

The Solar Boat Club had existed a few years ago, but after flipping their boat at competition in 2006, the club stopped meeting. A new group came together to restart the club in 2010, including the current mechanical lead for the club, Brandon Warren, a fourth year engineering technology student.

“We brought it back to life two years ago,” said Warren. “None of the members were original. It was a whole new group that didn’t know what they were doing. We have definitely grown to be more efficient.”

Warren said last year’s main goal was to reduce weight by getting rid of the space frame and using all carbon fiber composites. The club designed a new hull from the ground up using only carbon fiber which required weeks worth of work to complete. They even built their own custom oven.

“We had a big team last year with a lot of seniors,” said Warren. “There were quite a few senior projects that helped us complete the boat. This year we are definitely trying to get more people, as we lost quite a few.”

The club will participate in various events this year to showcase their boat, including an electrical vehicle parade in Seal Beach on Sept. 23 and at the Long Beach Boat Show in October.

Last quarter, the club participated in the Southern California Engineering Technologists Electric Vehicle Expo held in front of the engineering buildings at CPP. Students were given the chance to look at vehicles on sale for those looking to use alternative energy.

Students will be able to take a look at last year’s boat and talk to club members at the Bronco Fusion Club Fair. The club will also be periodically testing their boat at Puddingstone Lake in San Dimas, in an effort to find any and all problems before competition.

“The first meeting will be an introduction meeting,” said Roger Ruiz, a fifth-year electrical engineering student and vice president of the Solar Boat Club. “We plan on going to the lake on Saturday the 13th with all the new members, just for fun.”

The Solar Boat Club meets every Tuesday during U-hour and on Saturday mornings in Building 17. The first meeting will be on Oct. 2 in room 9-283.

“We welcome anyone interested in the club to come and see what the Solar Boat Club has to offer,” said Scott. “Our club does not charge club dues and welcomes students from every major. It’s always the hardest part, finding new members who are dedicated.”

Solar Boat Club

Robert Varga/ The Poly Post

Solar Boat Club

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