Solar Splash: College teams compete in boating competition in Clark County

Cedarville, UD face off with Cornell and other universities.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Eight college teams are participating in the annual Solar Splash competition this week at the Clark County Fairgrounds.

The Solar Splash is the World Championship of Collegiate Solar Boating and includes intercollegiate teams from North American, Europe, Japan and Turkey. The competition has had more than 80 schools compete since it started 30Cedarville years ago in 1994.

>> PHOTOS: Competition heats up at Solar Splash 2024

“It’s an engineering competition where the students spend the year building a solar-powered boat, and we gather here each June to give students a chance to compete and show off their engineering skills,” said Terri Luneau, Solar Splash official.

Luneau said students purchase the motors, some build solar panels or buy them, but “it’s all about engineering the components together.”

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

This year 12 teams applied but only eight teams are competing, including Cedarville University, University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, University of Southern Indiana, Stony Brook University, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Dayton, University of New Mexico and Cornell University.

Cedarville is attempting to reclaim the championship title for the 14th time, after coming in second place last year with 932.73 points. They have won 13 world championships during the 29-year challenge.

Last year, the University of Puerto Rico team earned the championship title after they finished with a score of 953.74 points out of 1,000.

Cedarville student Maria Smith said this project has been a year-long effort working on two boats as part of their senior design course requirement.

“It’s been really cool to bring it to competition and see us perform well after lots of long hours, struggles and late nights. It’s really fulfilling to see it do well at the end of all of that. It’s definitely a more fun part of the project, there’s been some fun aspects of working on things, but it’s fun to come compete against other teams,” she said.

For the competition, Cedarville team members developed low-drag, lightweight hulls, high-efficiency drive trains and propellors, solar panel designs and complex electrical systems.

“From the faculty advisor’s perspective, Cedarville’s success is due in part to students’ ability to tackle tough engineering problems in a spirit of unity and clear communication,” university officials said.

The event takes place over five days, where technical Inspections are done on the first day and the other days include five on-the-water competitive events.

On-site competitions include Visual Displays and Workmanship, on-the-water events start with a Sprint and Endurance qualifier, which is followed by the Slalom, a combination of speed and maneuverability. The final days are then spent in the Sprint and Endurance events.

Awards are given to the winners of the Sprint and Endurance events and the Slalom. Students are evaluated based on technical reports, video presentation, workmanship and engineering design. Points are earned in seven categories.

The first Solar Splash competition was held in Milwaukee in 1994, but has been held in this region for the past several years.

For more information about Solar Splash and this year’s competition, visit

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