By Bonnie Dickson
DAVIS, Calif.; May 21, 2018 – The UC Davis Solar Boat Team placed second overall against 17 teams during the 2018 California Solar Regatta college competition on May 5. The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) sponsors the annual event to promote renewable energy and sustainability across California high schools, colleges and universities.
The Solar Regatta scores solar-powered boats on design, sustainability, presentation and their performance in endurance, slalom and sprint races. The UC Davis team’s boat Sol Invictus won “Best Technical Design,” “Best Artistic Design” and “Best Boat Design.” The team was also recognized for “Best Team Spirit.”
Mechanical engineering senior Melissa Ng said the design and construction of this year’s solar boat benefited from the diverse range of expertise from the team’s 32 student members
“One of the main differences this year was the number of dedicated members we had,” Ng said. “We were able to increase the amount of analysis and justification done during our design phase, which shows in the awards that our team received.”
The Solar Regatta allows students to retrofit existing vessels to run on solar energy or build a new boat from scratch. UC Davis students built their vessel from scratch using raw materials – fiberglass, Kevlar fiber and polyester resin – as well as recycled parts. The team’s design included a pulley mechanism recovered from an old scrap pile for the boat’s steering column, crutches to connect the boat’s outriggers to the main hull and an old doorknob as a throttle.
The team also fabricated a drivetrain with a continuously variable transmission, or CVT to better harness power inputs from the vessel’s solar panels and battery, which improved acceleration and helped the boat maintain a higher top speed. Ng said this critical addition improved the overall performance of Sol Invictus.
This is the third year UC Davis has competed at the Solar Regatta. Students initially participated in the competition as part of a senior engineering design project in 2016 and have since formed a formal student design team sponsored by the College of Engineering’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.
The group’s faculty mentors are Jason Moore, a lecturer in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Alexander Forrest, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
The 2017-2018 design team received support from the College of Engineering, the Engineering Student Design Center, the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Craig Childers Transportation Technology Project Fellowship, Resin Research Company, Insulfoam, Airtech and SMUD also supported the team.
Sol Invictus will be on display at the College of Engineering’s 2018 Senior Design Showcase Thursday, June 7 from 1:30-4:30 p.m. at the UC Davis ARC Pavilion. The event is free and open to the public.