Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Solar Splash 2007 Fayetteville Arkansas

I was very fortunate to be able to attend a number of heats and events in this year's Solar Splash solar powered boat competition held here in Fayetteville. This year saw teams from Canada, Turkey, and of course USA.

One event I attended was the first heat of the Sprint event which was basically a 300 meter drag race. This event was very interesting, and entertaining when mishaps happened. Probably the most memorable one was when the Naval Academy's boat sank mid-run. It seemed to me that the torque of the propeller on the narrow boat was causing it to veer starboard, while the skipper attempted to steer it port by turning hard and leaning to the left. The boat started taking on water in the rear, and eventually was left floating nose up like a buoy, with the skipper floating also like a buoy. The Canadian team had a fabulous carbon fiber catamaran that broke a hydrofoil and didn't do well in the sprint, but overall, I'd say they were the most technologically advanced team with real time wireless telemetry and the slickest boat.

The other event I was able to attend was the endurance race which lasted four hours. I was able to see most of it, and it was quite interesting because the boats ran on only solar power on a course that was about 1 km in length. The highlights in that race were Cedarville, the overall winner, and the University of Arkansas, with the Turkish, Canadian and University of Northern Iowa teams making a good showing.

I must here make mention of the Turkish boat, and the team from Istanbul Technical University. Theirs has been a long process, finding funding, customs, and other problems. But they made a very good showing, doing well in the Sprint and Endurance races. They also won the presentation category due no doubt to the video they brought with them that showed everything they had done, including 3d cad drawings.

This event didn't garner much fanfare beside a few front page headlines in the local papers. Crowds were very small which is unfortunate considering how important this kind of technological utilization may become in the future. I was extremely fortunate to be able to watch this competition, and I am looking forward to seeing it next year.

Sunny Side Up.

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