SES Takes Best Technical Design Award!
Northern California Solar Regatta - May 18, 2012

It was a tough day for SES at the Inaugural Northern California Solar Regatta hosted by SMUD. We were hampered by some electrical and mechanical issues, but our efforts paid off in the long run and we were recognized by the judges for our innovative technical design.

The design for the boat was chosen last week after many days of preparation and design presentations. On Monday, May 14th, the entire class of 2013 went on a modified schedule that allowed them to work on the project all 6 periods. That day they all met in the Engineering lab and started building a solar powered boat. Many students stayed late after school each night to be able to realize the chosen design. Even so, the boat wasn’t finished until 6:45 AM the day of the race. Quite a few teachers and students pulled an all-nighter to get the job done. Because of the short build time, there was not a minute left to test the boat until we arrived at Rancho Seco Park to compete.

Upon unloading the boat and hooking up the computer and batteries, we discovered that the motor ran fine under battery power, but when we switched to solar only, the motor refused to turn. After much troubleshooting, we found a crossed wire on one set of panels and were able to repair it in just enough time for the first race.

Unfortunately, the wind had kicked up on the lake and it became difficult to keep the boat going in the direction we wanted. We were able to complete the slalom course, but our time was not competitive because we kept getting blown off course. The next race was the sprint or speed race and the wind ended up blowing our boat too close to shore and the prop became fouled in the weeds. As our boat was being towed out of the weeds, the chain drive system failed and the chain came off the sprocket. There was no time left to repair the boat before the next event which was the endurance race.

Even though we ran into problems that prevented us from competing in the last heat, the students did not give up. They tried their hardest, and quite honestly, they learned more today from their trials than if all had gone fine in the first place.

Students who had never used a screw driver before created battery boxes out of plywood and felt so good about their efforts, they even signed their names to the inside of the boxes. In four days our students built a boat that had an on board-computer system with advanced electronics, light aluminum framing, and a homemade chain-driven outboard motor that was quite a feat of engineering in itself. This is an incredible achievement in just four days!

Today I saw teamwork, brainstorming, tenacity, camaraderie and enthusiasm. The class of 2013 represented SES very well and I am so proud of their never give up attitude and perseverance. We may not have had the fastest boat; the most maneuverable boat; or the most efficient boat, but we did have the most technical boat and the judges agreed. 

What a great Integrated Unit and culminating project. Congratulations SES Class of 2013!