ERC boat competitionOn Saturday, May 4th, 2019, the force was with Skyline College’s Engineering and Robotics Club (ERC) as they competed in the 8th annual Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) Solar Boat Regatta held at the Rancho Secco Recreational area in Sacramento. The team consisted of 10 students and four faculty members who camped lakeside that Friday night, gearing up and making last minute preparations for the race.

To compete in the Solar Regatta, Skyline College’s Engineering and Robotics Club had to design and build a fully functional solar powered boat that could quickly maneuver through a series of difficult courses. This year’s boat was named Skywalker, an allusion towards Star Wars Day (May the fourth).

The team used the previous year’s solar boat chasse and enhanced its performance by reducing its overall weight and finishing the boat’s surface with a high gloss paint. The decision to reuse the boat chasse saved the team time, allowing them to focus their efforts on other categories of the competition, such as sustainability.

Tackling the sustainability aspect fostered team collaboration and influenced many of the new designs that were implemented. The students utilized equipment in the Base 11 Innovation Center located in Building 7. It was here that the team of future aspiring engineers worked on the solar powered boat. Many of the new components being built in the innovation lab were sourced from recycled materials. These upcycled additions included a student donated car roof rack that was used to mount and secure a re-purposed ice cooler box that housed the electronics, aluminum bars that served as structural I-beams to join catamaran style boat together and hardware and leftover plumbing that served to be a useful and effective steering solution.

It is a long held Engineering and Robotics Club tradition that the team and faculty camp overnight prior to the race at the Rancho Secco Recreational Area. The trip serves as a great opportunity for the students to build team camaraderie and is a chance for them to learn from and get to know their advisors.

Many other Northern California teams camped that night, which allowed students and faculty to network and collaborate with other schools on the boat project. Legendary chef, Nick Kapp, prepared an incredible balanced meal that night, giving strength to the team for their upcoming competition. The overnight camping trip was a blast for everyone, and allowed the group to kick back and relax around friends and a warm campfire. It was the final stretch of a journey that took hours upon hours of assembling, rethinking, trial and error and problem solving on the fly. The team grew closer with every challenge they faced and overcame, which is arguably the most important aspect of the solar boat project: teamwork.

Within the competition, the students had to perform in three challenging races and conduct a technical, artistic and sustainability presentation of their work in front of panel of judges. In the sustainability category, the ERC’s Skywalker came in 2nd place! For artistic design, the team scored 3rd place. Their technical design scored them another 3rd place. Overall, even though the team had technical difficulties, their team spirit allowed them to push through the competition, placing them in 7th place out of 18 schools — one spot better than last year!

The importance of teamwork extends well beyond the Engineering and Robotics club and Skyline College. During the event presentation, Ohlone College’s boat fell off its stand, breaking majority of the boat’s components such as it’s motors. Feeling their pain and knowing how much work they put into their project, Skyline College’s team went out of their way to offer up a working motor to Ohlone College so that they could continue to compete. Unfortunately the damage was too severe but the judges were so impressed by the support showed by Skyline College’s team that they awarded them with the Leading by Example trophy. This trophy is symbolic of this teams’ collaborative, friendly and team oriented mindset: the essence of this competition.

This is Skyline College’s 4th time competing in the SMUD Solar Regatta.

Students who attended:

Michael Toledo, Jessica Ngai, David Chou, Jialin Li, Ellis Manning-Villar, Raymond Iacobacci, Vincent Guan, Cynthia Lee, Daniel Messier

And former Skyline College Student Gianni Grelli

Faculty members who attended:

  • Nick Kapp (Bio Technology)
  • Maryam Khan (Engineering)
  • Nick Langhoff (Engineering)
  • Marco Wehrfritz (Engineering)

Thanks for the support of the Kinesiology department for letting us using the van and all the other helping hands!

Written by Marco Wehrfritz, Nick Kapp and Michael Toledo

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