'Confident' MTSU awaits Solar Splash competition in Ohio

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MTSU senior Lindsey Blankenship takes "True Blue," the MTSU solar boat entry in the 2015 Solar Splash competition, out for an endurance test drive recently. (Submitted photo)

The eight-member MTSU solar boat team has high expectations for their vessel as they await the start of the 2015 American Society of Mechanical Engineers Solar Splash in Dayton, Ohio.

Solar Splash is the world championship of intercollegiate solar/electric boating. Officially, it is called the International Intercollegiate Solar/Electric Boat Regatta and it takes place during five days in June.

Technical inspections are performed on the first day, and the remainder of the time is occupied by five on-the-water competitive events. Points are earned in seven categories starting with technical reports submitted before teams arrive at the competition.

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On-site competitions include visual displays and workmanship. On-the-water events begin with a sprint and a maneuverability qualifier. This is followed by an event called the Solar Slalom, which is a combination of speed and maneuverability. The final days are spent in the sprint and endurance events.

This year's 22nd annual competition will be held on George Wyth Lake at Eastwood MetroPark in Dayton. MTSU is the lone entry from Tennessee.

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MTSU's entry, called "True Blue" by team members, is a modified version of the 2014 boat that received one first-place award for qualifying with the best overall design, two outstanding awards for drive-train design and electrical system design and placed fifth overall.

"Our confidence is high," said graduate student mentor Cary Woodson, the 2014 captain as an undergraduate. "This week, we got her up to her best speeds."

The team, which drove to the competition site Wednesday (June 10), carried the boat to the Jefferson Springs Recreation Area on Percy Priest Lake for sprint and endurance testing earlier this week.

Rising senior Lindsey Blankenship of Lexington, Tennessee, and junior David Sprouls of Danville, Illinois, will be the respective endurance and speed event drivers.

Blankenship, a double major in physics and math, averaged 7 miles per hour during her two-hour endurance practice run.

"We should have no problem with the first run," Blankenship said, adding the team will need to recharge the batteries during the two-hour layover before the second two-hour run. "Depending on how well the (solar) panels do, we hope to get the charge back. We should not have a problem as long as there are no clouds."

Sprouls, a mechatronics engineering major, reached a top speed of 23 mph during eight or nine practice runs.

"And that was on almost dead batteries, so hopefully we can go 24 mph with fresh batteries," he said.

The top speed lasts only about one minute, he added.

The MTSU team utilizes "the best lead-acid batteries we can buy," Sprouls said.

State University of New York-Stony Brook earned the 2014 collegiate world championship. It will try to defend its title.

The MTSU Experimental Vehicles Program is housed in the Department of Engineering Technology, one of 11 departments in the College of Basic and Applied Sciences.

Professor Saeed Foroudastan serves as faculty adviser. He also is associate dean in the College of Basic and Applied Sciences.

For more information, call 615-494-8786 or email Foroudastan at Saeed.Foroudastan@mtsu.edu.

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American Society of Mechanical Engineers Solar Splash, MTSU, solar boat team
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