Valley News -

By Alex Groves
Associate Editor 

Hundreds of students compete in 16th annual 'Solar Cup' boat race at Lake Skinner


Last updated 5/24/2018 at 2:07pm

Alex Groves

Students in solar-powered boats travel a race path on Lake Skinner Saturday, May 19, for the 16th annual Solar Cup competition.

Hundreds of high school students from across Southern California were at Lake Skinner over the weekend to participate in an annual competition that had them racing solar-powered boats they constructed.

The 16th annual Solar Cup, organized by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, took place May 18-20, and gave students from Riverside, San Diego, San Bernardino, Orange and Los Angeles counties the chance to put their science and construction skills to the test.

They launched their boats onto the water and tried to make as many laps around a course on the lake as possible during a series of four heats.

This year, Riverside Poly High School took the first place trophy in the veteran's division and Costa Mesa High School took the top prize in the in the rookie division.

There were 38 teams participating at this year's event, including a Perris Union High School District team, a Hemet Unified School District team and a Lake Elsinore-area team.

Solar Cup Coordinator Julie Karbacher said that as a former teacher one of the things she loves about Solar Cup is how it gives students practical applications for the science and math they learn in the classroom. She noted that teachers are always looking for a way to make their lessons real and actually having the students build something is a great way to do that.

Karbacher said the students learn a lot during the process of building as well.

"To watch the kids grow from November barely being able to use a hammer to build the hull, to now they're solving complex electrical issues, it's just amazing," she said.

Karbacher said there's a spirit of camaraderie among the different teams.

"It's a competition," she said. "There's a trophy, but we have teams lending equipment. If they have a spare something, they're lending it to another team knowing full well that if their boat breaks they don't have a spare anymore. But they still do it.

"It happens year in and year out," she said. "We had a boat that was having difficulty qualifying yesterday. They had two other teams helping them and giving them wires and giving them other pieces of parts ... It's not all cutthroat competition, we're here to have fun too."

Out on the water, a bevy of colorfully-painted boats ran laps. Pontoon boats in the middle of the race area kept track of how many laps each boat was scoring and safety boats outside of the race area watched on in case anyone had any technical difficulty and needed to be brought back to shore. Despite cloudy skies, the boats had enough rays from the sun to run.

Students had fun with their boat designs and painted them creatively. There was a Batman-themed boat, Star Wars-themed boat and a pirate ship-themed boat as well.

Because the event had a conservation-theme, the student teams were asked to come up with 30-60 minute Snapchat videos of why saving water was important, and they could win points for the competition based on the overall quality of the video.

Presentations have long been a part of the event. In the early days students were asked to come up with presentations that included a visual aid such as a poster board, according to Karbacher. More recently they've been asked to put together videos.

Karbacher said this is the first year the videos have been done on the social network.

"This year we thought, let's hit the kids where they live," she said. "Let's do Snapchat."

Karbacher said she was pleasantly surprised by the results.

"This year we had 10 or 12 of them that were really creative and inspiring," she said.

Alex Groves can be reached by email at [email protected]


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