CU Solar Boat: gathering the skills and the experience needed to bring alternative energy into the mainstream and fuel a more sustainable future.
While the link between engineering and positive world change can often get lost in a flurry of detailed formulations and carefully crafted diagrams, nowhere is this connection clearer than in the landscape of project teams housed under Cornell’s College of Engineering. My experience with CU Solar Boat, for example, has been instrumental in helping to strengthen this tie between our curriculum and our role in revolutionizing the future. We are an undergraduate project team working to design and construct a single-occupant, solar-powered vessel that will carry the Cornell spirit to the intercollegiate Solar Splash Competition. While our objective is speed, what we learn along the way is vastly more important — we are gathering the skills and the experience needed to bring alternative energy into the mainstream and fuel a more sustainable future. As the youngest and smallest project team on campus, CUSB is unique in that every member can remain incredibly involved in each aspect of the production process. Our team is composed of five engineering sub-teams — drivetrain and steering, hull, solar, system controls, and business — that each specialize in actualizing one facet of our boat’s design. More seasoned teammates serve as guides for younger members as they acquire technical expertise that surpasses what is learned in a lecture hall. From working with CAD software to soldering solar cells or machining anti-ventilation plates, the emphasis on hands-on discovery is an essential component of the project team advantage.