The Solar Boat Challenge

Posted by in Adventure, Family on October 20, 2012 0 comments

Today was a really special day, as my 11 year old participated in the Swinburne University of Technology ‘Solar Boat Challenge’ at Scienceworks, in Melbourne. It was his school’s first attempt at putting an entrant in. There were 6 children selected to participate from Grade 5 via writing an essay about what they could do to help create the solar boat, and my son was chosen about 3 months ago to be part of the team. Today was the metropolitan schools race day, and tomorrow is the regional schools race day, plus the finals for the state. There were around 100 boats racing in the metropolitan races today, so, in essence, it was a big deal to get here.

The boat was created as a model, and they were given a limit in price to buy the solar panels, the motor and the propellor. The remainder of the boat needed to be made from recycled materials. And here it is!

The children were questions by a referee before the race to see how involved they were in building the boat (and not something the parents or teachers came up with). Once they were satisfied, they were allowed to race.
There were 3 rounds for the participants to race, upon which they adjusted their boats after each race to make them faster. After their first race, upon which they came second, they decided to add some weight in the hulls to lift the bottle tops out of the water. They found some rocks to put in there, but when they had the second race, the rocks moved around, and ended up tipping the boat further forward making it lose again. They decided to get rid of the rocks, and tape some coins to the top so that they were fixed, and took the weight off from the bottle tops, and replaced it with cloth tape so the water wouldn’t get it, and they won their third race. 
After the practice sessions, there were the elimination rounds. We were first up to race, and won our elimination round, but then we had to join the schools from the second pool, and we lost our next race by a better contender. So that was the end of that.
But it was an amazing day… seeing how the kids got together to protect their boat, fix their boat and work out ways to make it better. But alongside the solar boats, were the solar cars generally done by the high school kids… and that was incredible watching what they had put together.
They gave out discretionary awards for the best poster designed to explain the process in how they came to design their boat, the best uniformed team (the kids who won named their boat ‘Black Caviar’ after a leading Melbourne racehorse, and dressed in jockey clothes), the best looking boat and a couple of other awards which were too muffled to hear what they were. We were in the top 5 of best poster. At least it was something!
After the race was over, the boys wanted to play in the museum – which is a fabulous display of interactive science including the physics of light, the physics of the body, the mechanics and electronics of household appliances and plenty of other fun things to do, including putting your head in a bowl of fruit!
The Solar Boat Challenge is a great opportunity for students interested in science and engineering to create something that works with limited materials. Everyone had a great day today, and Scienceworks organised it brilliantly. The enthusiasm the kids had was just inspiring, and it just makes you proud to see that your child is so eager to learn.