June 13-17, 2012

Waterloo Technical Society sponsors UNI Solar boat

The Waterloo Technical Society donated funds to sponsor the UNI Solar boat, http://www.cns.uni.edu/eboat/sponsors.htm, which is competing in the IEEE-PELS Solar Splash 2012, http://www.solarsplash.com/index.php, World Championship Solar Electric Boating competition to be held on June 13-17, 2012 at George Wyth State Park in Iowa.

Teams from across the United States and the world will be participating in the five day event all striving to become the Collegiate World Champion. Teams receive points in seven categories: Technical Report, Visual Presentation, Qualifying, Workmanship, Solar Slalom, Sprint, and Endurance. Each team will receive a technical inspection to ensure that all teams are on a level playing field, which entails asking the team questions and doing an overall evaluation. The ability of the students to explain their systems is part of the competition. The performance of their design will be measured on the water. Each inspection team includes a Solar Splash official, who is very familiar with the process, and several technical volunteers to help cover electrical and mechanical aspects. Volunteers with an engineering background are needed to assist with these inspections. You do not have to be an expert in the mechanical and electrical systems that are being used. The technical background just helps to understand the basic concepts of energy storage, transmission, and controls. We are also in need of volunteers to help with non-technical tasks too. Please forward this information on to whoever you think may be interested. Below is a preliminary schedule for the event.

Recruitment and retention of students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields have recently received great attention in national priorities. Institutions of higher education have employed a variety of initiatives to promote clean, zero-emission transportation technologies in all United States waters and to gain the attention of young Americans to STEM-related careers as baby boomers soon start to retire in many engineering and technology fields. Designing, building, testing, and troubleshooting solar-powered boats as well as developing teamwork skills have been excellent ways of attracting many students to STEM-related careers. Local schools within the Cedar Valley and surrounding area schools will be contacted. Students will be informed and encouraged to attend the IEEE-PELS Solar Splash event in June 2012.

As the host institution, the University of Northern Iowa is responsible for all logistical coordination needed to organize a successful international event. UNI works closely with George Wyth State Park, Iowa DNR, Cedar Falls Tourism Bureau, and local businesses in order to accomplish this. Teams will be out at George Wyth Lake from 8:00 in the morning to 5:00 at night. A paddock area is created for each team to have their workspace. Lunch is served at the lake and provided to all team members and advisors. An opening reception is held on the UNI campus and catered by dining services the first evening of the event. The reception brings teams, sponsors, planning committee members, and UNI Administration together to socialize and learn from one another.

The University of Northern Iowa’s Solar Boat Team has been working tirelessly the past few months to prepare their boat for competition in Solar Splash 2012 in Cedar Falls, Iowa. This year, UNI will use a modified version of last year’s hull with improvements in hydrodynamic efficiency and a fifteen percent weight reduction. Other major improvements for 2012 revolve around propeller design and electrical systems. The UNI team uses software to design propellers for optimal performance in the specialized Solar Splash races. By race time on June 13, 2012, UNI solar panthers plan to have multiple custom propellers designed, manufactured, tested and evaluated, with each propeller having unique characteristics to produce a speed of 40 mph or better.

Electrical systems are crucial in a race limited by the gift of sun light, which may not be always fully present in Cedar Falls, Iowa. To maximize the sun’s energy, UNI is designing a custom Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) circuit used to efficiently interface their solar panels, battery bank, and electrical motors. German made highly efficient solar panels are used to charge the batteries at all times during the five day event. This year the team also plans to purchase approximately 340 pounds of high end lead acid batteries to make a total of four battery packs and twenty four batteries. UNI’s 2012 goals will be capped off by purchasing two new electric motors, which are sure to put them ahead of the top engineering schools they are competing against.

UNI’s success in 2012 is driven by student determination to learn, incorporate, and master the eco-friendly solar technology which is becoming part of everyday life around the world. The cutting edge technology used by students comes at a price however. The UNI Solar Boat team is actively seeking new sponsors to help power their 2012 season as well as seasons to come. Please visit our website at www.cns.uni.edu/eboat to view the UNI solar boat and learn more about the overall project and how to spread the idea of cleaner Iowa lakes and rivers by zero-emission solar powered boats.

If you are interested in volunteering, for any portion of the event in June 13-17, 2012, please contact Kendra Willey at tkwilley@gmail.com ( Technical judges are needed for Thursday. Friday, and Saturday). Please visit the IEEE-PELS Solar Splash site at http://www.solarsplash.com