For the 5th time, the Skyline Solar Boat Team of the Engineering and Robotics Club (ERC) joins the SMUD (Sacramento Municipal Utility District) Solar Boat competition at Rancho Seco Recreational Area in Herald, CA. It was the 10th time this state-wide event took place and the second time after the pandemic.

Due to the aftermath of COVID, the number of participants has drastically declined. While we had 20 teams in the past, only 9 teams participated this year.

But this year, something happened, which never has before; it was raining! Until the last minute, the SMUD organization team waited to give green light for the competition to happen. Of course, solar power doesn’t work best when it’s pouring so the competition was held on batteries only.

The second thing, that had never been seen before, was the number of team members going to the competition: 26 students! We never had that many participants and this shows that students are eager to engage in face-to-face activities again, after the long break during the pandemic. The team arrived on a rainy Friday to pitch the tents on the usually warm and sunny lake of Rancho Seco. The team was in a great mood, the food was great (thanks to Chef Nick Kapp) and the team sat at the fire pit to enjoy being outdoors the night before the race. Only 5 additional teams out of the 9 teams arrived the night before the regatta and spent the night at the lake. The SMUD program manager gave them extra kudos for doing that, since camping in the rain isn’t for everyone. But the students, advisors and the dog Chloe stayed dry and were eager to race on the next morning!

The races were fast and the competition tough. Skyline had a hard time beating the slim and fast boats of City College of San Francisco or San Joaquin Delta College. But our boat sustained heavy rain and competed all the races, where others were left dead in the water but in the end suffered an electronic failure. It wasn’t enough for a trophy but the team spirit and the motivation were still on an all time high! The members of the Engineering and Robotics Club celebrated their president, John Michael Rada at the end of the races, carrying on their shoulders as their trophy.

Nevertheless, it was a great experience and everyone enjoyed the supportive and collaborative atmosphere among the participants and the organizer of SMUD. Thank you SMUD, for hosting such a great event again and giving students a great learning experience!

A big thank you also to Physics faculties Dr. Emilie Hein and Mayra Lopez-Thibodeaux, Biology faculty Dr. Nick Kapp, and Chemistry faculty Dr. Susanne Schubert, who drove the students, equipment and supplies to Rancho Seco on Friday night and camped with them, provided food and support till the dawn of the race and drove them all safely back to Skyline!

And special thanks to Dino Nomicos, Dean of Kinesiology, for letting us use the vans and to the Associated Students of Skyline College (ASSC) , for the funding and support!

Article by Marco Wehrfritz, Emilie Hein and Sean Ruiz

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