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Mechanical engineering students make a splash at solar boating competition

Daniel Johnson, Eliza Sweet, Lauren DeSimone, and Christopher Taylor arrived at Clarks County Fairgrounds in Springfield, Ohio on June 8 with two big goals in mind: stay dry and drive fast. Not only did they accomplish that, but they walked away with plenty of awards during the five-day Solar Splash 2021 competition.

The senior mechanical engineering students finished in fourth overall and took home seven awards, including outstanding solar system design; outstanding drivetrain design; most improved team; a third-place finish in the 300m sprint event; second place in outstanding technical report; and third place in best video presentation.

COVID-19 almost threw a wrench into the team’s plans, but some crafty Zoom calls allowed them to continue their boat build virtually until the event arrived.

“Seeing our boat on the water in Ohio was something we weren’t sure was possible, but we’re so glad it happened,” DeSimone says.

Solar Splash is an annual solar boating competition for undergraduate students. The goal is to design and manufacture a solar-powered boat capable of performing fast speeds, quick maneuverability, and endurance events. The emphasis on solar energy allows students to learn about a more sustainable form of energy for transportation purposes.

The event saw 10 teams compete, with the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez being named the overall winner.

“After a tough senior year with COVID, we appreciated that we could end our TCNJ experience on a high note and make our school proud,” DeSimone says.

The team’s advisers include mechanical engineering professor emeritus Norman Asper, mechanical engineering professor Karen Yan, and Gini Cadillac ’90.

— David Pavlak, with reporting by Anisa Lateef ’22