Stony Brook’s Solar Boat Team placed fifth and won the most improved team award at this year’s Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Solar Splash Competition in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
“I think that being recognized as most improved team doesn’t really stop us from improving,” senior mechanical engineering major Ankit Tyagi, president of the Solar Boat Team, said. “This is because we already know that there are a few things in the boat that we want to improve so we can be in the top five again next year.”
The Solar Boat Team is a “College of Engineering and Applied Sciences-based club,” founded in 1994, “that works together to design, build, test, and compete a solar-powered race boat,” as described by the Stony Brook Website.
According to the Solar Boat Team’s website, they accredit this year’s success to “improved drivetrain, solar panels, and the electrical system of the boat, improving endurance and speed.”
Last year, they competed with a redesigned carbon fiber boat, which was 30 pounds and approximately 90 percent lighter than the 2010 hull.
“The boat was handmade with a carbon fiber hull,” David Westerfeld, Adjunct Professor in the Department of Electrical Computer Engineering and supporter of the team. “It was a design that was made last year for the first time and it did very well.”
This year, they used this carbon fiber idea and improved it into a winning design. They used the carbon fiber and made it into a mold, which took three months to make.
“We learned a lot of new techniques as opposed to last year where we were just trying out new things,” Tyagi said. “We were thinking about making a new hull this year by making a new design. We are also looking to make our own solar panel.”
When it comes to the competition the only “big rule” according to Westerfeld is “that you have to use solar cells to charge the boat.”
From there, the boat’s overall score is totaled from their performance in a slalom course, where the team placed third, endurance and sprint challenges, and a qualifying round, where they placed second.
Other factors that go into the score are a technical report, visual presentation and boat design.
The competition usually is over a five-day period, but this year due to heavy thunderstorms and tornadoes the team only got to compete three days.
This year the team also had the opportunity to test their boat on Lake Ronkonkoma before the competition and make improvements, which is a rarity due to usual incompleteness of the boat in advance of the race.
Each fall the team starts working on the boat after they receive funding from industry supporters like the College of Engineering and the Department of Mechanical Engineering.
“At Stony Brook we have always done it differently,” Westerfeld said. “We always have a very passionate bunch of people working on [the boats] and each year the teams come up with the designs together.”
As the fall semester commences, the club is hoping to recruit new members, whether they are engineering majors or not, to help with designs and building.