Solar Splash, the world championship of collegiate solar boating, is taking place this week in Springfield in a five-day event that started Tuesday and will end Saturday.
Teams from Poland and Puerto Rico, as well as local schools such as Cedarville University and Wright State University, are competing. Any two or four-year college, university, vocational or high schools are eligible to compete.
Races include a 300-meter straight sprint, two 2-hour endurance heats, and Slalom. The boats competing must be powered by direct and stored solar power — wind and human power are not allowed. In the slalom race, teams are able to take off the solar panels and can use motors, propellers or change other components.
“Students build a boat, they design different subsystems, and they bring it here to compete in the various competitions that make up the 1,000-point event,” said Richard Burt, a Solar Splash event official. “Overall, it’s a competition to promote green, clean water activities and also to help the students to start applying some of the things they learn how to do in school into real-world problem solving and learn what it takes to make something into reality.”
Cedarville was last year’s winner and has won more than nine times since 2004. As of Thursday, Cedarville was in third place with College of New Jersey taking the lead. Puerto Rico was in second and Wright State University fourth.
Solar boating is a unique sport, as “all of it has to do with going,” said Burt, who was team captain of his solar boating team in 1998. “None of it has to do with things that other people already solved, that’s what makes it interesting to me.”
Solar Splash is taking place at Champions Park Lake at the Clark County Fairgrounds through Saturday, and the public is invited to watch free of charge.