Students from Santa Monica High School build their solar-powered boat 'RETHINK,' which they will use to compete against roughly 40 other schools in the Solar Cup, to be held later this week. (photo by Photo Courtesy Benjamin Kay)

SAMOHI — Students from Santa Monica High School will be representing their school and their community in the Metropolitan Water District’s 2009 Solar Cup, competing in sprint and endurance races in their 16-foot, solar-powered boat, “RETHINK.”

Students from Samohi’s Team Marine, Heal the Bay Surfrider Club (HtBSC), and the Marine Biology program have been building the boat for the past seven months and will face off against 40 other schools at Lake Skinner in the Temecula Valley. The team will camp for three days and three nights.

Sponsored by City Hall, the students were given $4,000 dollars to purchase boat equipment, including solar panels and an electric motor.  

The Solar Cup, which has been called the nation’s largest solar boat program, is a competition that gives high school students hands-on experiences with alternative energies, electrical and mechanical engineering, budgeting, and making creative multi-media public service announcements about California’s water crisis. In particular, students experience the triumphs and hardships of constructing the boat and installing the steering, electrical, and drive train systems.

Students had to follow specific rules and guidelines when building their boat.

 “This solar boat project has taught me more about science and eco-friendly living than any class I’ve taken,” said Megan Kilroy, captain and skipper of the Solar Cup crew and Team Marine. “Learning all the technical aspects and putting in many long hours have taught me so much, but it’s been an amazing experience.”

At Lake Skinner, boats will be pitted against each other in the sprint race, a straight course of 200 meters, and the endurance race, a circular 90-minute course that puts the prowess of the solar panels to the test. 

“The Solar Cup has given us the privilege of building a solar boat, but the youth’s empowerment will go beyond the competition’s end,” said Valerie Wacker, a member of the Solar Cup crew. “We have stepped into the world of new and sustainable technologies, and just as we have built our own solar boat with the help of our peers, someday, I believe our generation will lead the future to a cleaner earth.”

And it’s not just the students who are learning.

“I can’t say enough about the academic value of project-based learning and service learning project,” said Benjamin Kay, marine biology teacher and coach of the Solar Cup crew, Team Marine, and the HtBSC. “I’ve learned so much this year, and the magical thing is that the students have been teaching me.”

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