MRES Solar Boat Regatta was swimmingly successful

Several Minnesota student teams learned hands-on about solar power this spring by building solar boats or converting boats to solar power… and then racing them in our regatta. 

Ten student teams competed in the MRES 19th Annual Solar Boat Regatta May 21 on Lake Phalen in St. Paul.  The regatta included slalom and speed races as well as an hour long endurance trial.  This year was dominated by high school and middle school teams, though college and organization teams are invited to compete as well.

Overall winners in the Student Class were...

first place, City Academy from St. Paul with their boat “Twin Cities,”

second place, Orono Middle School from Long Lake, with “Giant Yellow Grape.”

Overall winners in the Experimental Class were...

first place, Roosevelt High School from Minneapolis with “Solar Eclipse,”

second place, Orono High School from Long Lake with “Water Bug.”

If you weren't able to make it out to the race, we're again working with the winners to have their boats on display at the state fair’s Eco Experience exhibit area.  You can also see pictures from the event over in the 2011 regatta gallery.

New this year, one sponsor, Shock Electric, offered free rides on a solar pontoon, which allowed attendees to see solar energy powering larger watercraft.  Izzy Ice Cream provided ice cream pops from their store in Saint Paul which has solar panels on the roof.  Even the drinking water was cooled with solar energy.  You can see all our sponsors who made this event possible at the bottom of the regatta page on our website.

MRES board member Doug Shoemaker called it an “amazing event” this year despite the rain.  This was in part because of the great job by Jennifer Birkholz, an MRES member who got more involved with the events committee and helped organize the regatta.  He also noted several fun facts this year:

  • Odyssey Academy from Brooklyn Park used all recycled materials to make their boat.
  • The winning Orono team has been asked to participate in a college level solar boat race in Iowa.
  • Students who participated showed real passion for their boats and solar power, some even mentioning they plan to study electrical engineering and other related fields.
  • Teams were more diverse, with a diverse range of cultural backgrounds.
  • An all-girls team participated again this year (barely missing out on beating their all-male counterpart "Giant Yellow Grape").
  • The Roosevelt team has been a top winner all three years the school has participated, thanks in part to involvement by employees from GE, the school’s corporate partner.

As the endurance race came to a close, the sun finally came out in full force.  And while that could have been timed better, just trying to get the teams off the lake at the end of the day was proof enough that the event had been a great success.  This was in no small part due to the MRES members who chose to volunteer during the event to keep everything running smoothly.  Next year, the 20th Anniversary of the Regatta, is going to be great.

Note to readers: You can help us continue to grow the regatta.  If you know of any teachers, students or others who might be interested in being part of a future regatta, share this story with them.