Hundreds of high school students from Southern California competed at the 14th annual Solar Cup competition in Temecula, an event that organizers say not only allows students to have fun, but also reminds them to be environmentally-minded at a time when the state is grappling with conservation issues.
The Solar Cup, sponsored by Metropolitan Water District, is a three-day event hosted each year at Lake Skinner. It has become the largest solar-boat competition among high school students in the U.S. Each team's boat was sponsored by a water agency in their city or region during the weekend event.
About 700 students in 38 teams competed in this year's event, which organizers say has grown to capacity.
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"So many of these kids are already plugged into the environmental movement. They already know about recycling, some of the have environmental clubs, but this really reinforces it," said Julie Miller, Solar Cup coordinator for Metropolitan Water District.
"You can have recreation and wildlife preserves. You can have energy and clean energy. You can have boats and move fast. You can have have it all and this program shows them that," Miller said.
High school students work in teams for several months designing and constructing boats that are powered by solar equipment. Each team can sometimes average from a handful of students to 20 students at a time.
Liliana Calvario, 17, a junior at Venice High School, said she and her teammates spent about seven months working on their solar boat. This year was her first competition and she was already considering next year's event.
Liliana said she learned about the competition from her geometry teacher. She said her introduction to the Solar Cup expanded her understanding of solar energy, and made her more environmentally conscious even though she was already aware.
"I kind of had no idea how solar energy worked until I started wiring everything, so it taught me how it worked in a way," she said.
Riverside Poly High School in Riverside, and Kaiser High School in Fontana, earned first place in the Veteran and Rookie divisions, respectively.
Organizers emphasized that the event is more than a competition, it is a program that allows students to develop and use their math, engineering and communication skills. The Solar Cup can also help students choose careers they probably never considered, Miller said.
"I hope they do walk away with a better understanding of the drinking water resources in California. I hope they come out with an understanding of possible career paths -- That 'Wow, I really enjoyed this type of job. I really enjoyed this class, so maybe this is something I can do for the rest of my life,'" Miller said.