Solar Cup Gives Students Hands-on Learning Experiences Through Solar-Powered Boat Races

Solar Cup
Solar Cup 2015

After seven months of hands-on learning about water conservation, solar energy and engineering, teams of high school students from across the Southland are ready to put their skills and their solar-powered boats to the test in the nation’s largest solar boating competition, Metropolitan Water District’s 14th annual Solar Cup.

Starting this Friday and continuing through Sunday, 38 teams from high schools in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties will race boats they have built in sprint and endurance races at Metropolitan’s Lake Skinner in southwest Riverside County’s Temecula Valley.

“Solar Cup gives students an opportunity to take concepts they’ve learned in the classroom and apply them in a practical way focused on conservation and alternative energy development,” said Solar Cup coordinator Julie Miller, a state-certified teacher with Metropolitan’s education programs. “That experience often fosters a life-long interest in science, math, engineering, renewable energy, resource management and the environment and leads students into careers in which they may not have otherwise been interested.”

Since its start in 2002, more than 10,000 students have participated in Solar Cup, some of whom have pursued careers in engineering and environmental sciences.

Students began building their single-seat, 16-foot, solar-powered boats last November and have worked with their sponsoring Metropolitan member and local water agencies to equip the boats with solar panels, batteries, electrical systems, drive trains, propellers and rudders. They’ve worked nights and weekends since to maximize their boats’ endurance, speed and mechanical and electrical efficiencies. The teams also created unique and compelling video and social media campaigns on the importance of water conservation.

Teams are put through a series of qualifying events by Metropolitan and a technical advisory team from Occidental College to ensure boats meet the program’s requirements and are safe and seaworthy.

On Friday, May 13, the boats are tested on Lake Skinner. The competition begins Saturday, May 14, when the teams face off in 90-minute endurance heats around a 1.6 kilometer course and continues Sunday, May 15, with 200-meter sprint races in which the boats are powered by solar energy stored in batteries. The activities culminate with an awards ceremony on Sunday afternoon. Trophies are awarded in veteran and rookie divisions for teams with the highest points, as well as to teams honored for “Hottest-Looking Boat,” teamwork and sportsmanship.

Among the 38 teams in this year’s Solar Cup are three schools participating for the first time. They will compete in a rookie division.

In addition to points earned in the races, teams can earn points from technical inspections, completion of technical reports and creation of a public service message project. These messages focus on water conservation in the form of a 60-second, self-scripted and produced, conservation video or social media campaign under the theme, “Conservation Rain or Shine.”

The races are open to the public and easily visible from the lake shoreline. The event takes place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. with free admission and parking. Lake Skinner is at 37701 Warren Road in the Temecula Valley community of Winchester in southwest Riverside County—about 10 miles northeast of the Rancho California Road exit off Interstate 15.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is a state-established cooperative of 26 cities and water agencies serving nearly 19 million people in six counties. The district imports water from the Colorado River and Northern California to supplement local supplies, and helps its members to develop increased water conservation, recycling, storage and other resource-management programs.

List of 2016 Solar Cup Teams

Team/School Name


Member Agency Sponsor

Academia Avance Los Angeles Los Angeles DWP
Alliance Collins Family College Ready HS** Huntington Park Central Basin MWD
Anaheim High School Anaheim Anaheim Public Utilities
Arcadia High School Arcadia Upper San Gabriel Valley MWD
Burbank High School Burbank Burbank Water & Power
Calabasas High School Calabasas Las Virgenes MWD
Chino High School Chino Inland Empire Utilities Agency*
Chino Hills High School Chino Hills Inland Empire Utilities Agency*
Coast High School Huntington Beach Municipal Water District of Orange County*
Compton High School Compton City of Compton
David Gonzales School Calabasas Las Virgenes MWD
Del Lago Academy Escondido San Diego County Water Authority
Downey High School Downey Central Basin MWD
Elsinore HS / Lakeside HS Wildomar Western MWD*
Franklin High School Los Angeles Los Angeles DWP
Ganesha High School Pomona Three Valleys MWD
Hemet USD Team Hemet Eastern MWD
High Tech High North County San Marcos San Diego County Water Authority
John Muir High School Pasadena Pasadena Water & Power
Kaiser High School** Fontana Inland Empire Utilities Agency*
La Cañada High School La Cañada Flintridge Foothill MWD*
Laguna Beach High School Laguna Beach Municipal Water District of Orange County*
Lennox Academy Lennox West Basin MWD
McBride High School Long Beach Long Beach Water Department
Mountain View High School El Monte Upper San Gabriel Valley MWD
Nogales High School La Puente Three Valleys MWD
Norte Vista High School Riverside Western MWD*
Nuview Bridge Early College HS Nuevo Eastern MWD
Palos Verdes High School Palos Verdes Estates West Basin MWD
Palos Verdes Peninsula High School Rolling Hills Estates West Basin MWD
Paramount High School West Paramount Central Basin MWD
Perris Union High SD Team Romoland Eastern MWD
Providence High School Burbank Burbank Water & Power
Riverside Poly High School Riverside Western MWD*
Santana High School La Puente Three Valleys MWD
Savanna High School Anaheim Anaheim Public Utilities
Venice HS STEMM Magnet** Los Angeles Los Angeles DWP
West Covina High School West Covina Upper San Gabriel Valley MWD
* = has co-sponsor(s)
** = rookie team

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