Boats to travel at ‘light speed’


CEDARVILLE — At this racing competition, “light speed” takes on a whole new meaning. And Cedarville has been shining bright as the 10-time champion.

On June 5-9, Cedarville will host the Collegiate Championship of Solar Boating, also known as Solar Splash, in the lake at Champions Park at the Clark County Fairground in Springfield. This is the fifth and final year that Cedarville University will host the competition. About 20 teams from universities in Puerto Rico, Canada and all over the U.S. will compete.

Cedarville mechanical engineering seniors work on their solar panel and battery-powered boat as part of their senior project. Both Dr. Tim Dewhurst, senior professor of mechanical engineering, and Dr. Gerry Brown, assistant professor of electrical engineering, lead the student team.

The two major changes Cedarville is implementing this year are replacing the solar panels on the boat with newer, more advanced panels that weigh less and can absorb more light and using only one motor on the boat, reducing the boat’s overall weight and still capable of competing in the high-speed and long-distance races.

“This project is far more extensive than just boats or solar power; it trains students to work with the state-of-the-art in the industry, as the auto industry is moving toward electric drive,” Dewhurst said. “This competition challenges the students to engineer a boat to go incredibly fast with very little power. If the students can learn to work within these constraints, then they can take on any job and be successful. They will graduate from Cedarville with confidence to do anything in their job fields.”

Cedarville began competing in Solar Splash in 1995. Since 2004, Cedarville has won the competition 10 times, including the past three years. In 2012, Cedarville was the top university in the DONG Energy Solar Challenge in the Netherlands.

“This project has fostered not only growth as an engineer, but in character. I encounter technical challenges on a daily basis, and it requires discipline and perseverance to keep a positive attitude and push forward,” said Andrew Nelson, senior mechanical engineering major from Michigan. “I would not be where I am today if it were not for the countless hours my advisers and other faculty have poured into helping my learning experience. This competition is an opportunity to demonstrate the excellence of Cedarville’s engineering program, but more importantly, to be a godly example and show Christ’s love to the other teams.”

For Nelson, the project had an impact on his character as well.

“Maybe the most important aspect of the project is the reminder to remain humble,” he said. “When you’re a world-class team with a history of success, it can be tempting to let pride get out of check. But when you think about where your talents come from, that fact that we’ve had any success at all is a testament to God’s grace and blessing on us.”