MaD Program Harnesses the Promise of Renewable Energy

By Miya Murata, Clarion Staff

The Kennedy solar regatta team stops cooling their boat’s solar panels for a photo at Rancho Seco Recreational Area on May 4. Pictured (L to R) David Yu, Mr. Indreland, Bradley Nielson, Theo Tran, Enrique Garcia, Michael Huang, Mia Whitfield, and Sarah Cerda. Clarion staff photo

Students in the Manufacturing and Design (MaD) program built their first solar boat to compete in the Seventh Annual California Solar Regatta. The May 4th event was hosted by local energy supplier SMUD, and held at the Rancho Seco Recreational Area, a property owned and managed by the company. SMUD supports a number of STEM educational initiatives by helming a variety of events such as the Solar Car Race,  Electricity Fair, and California Solar Regatta.

Twenty teams, each comprised of students from middle school to university level, prepared custom-built solar sailboats. Boy Scout Troops also competed alongside the teams that represented schools in the region.

The watercraft was made out of solar panels that use solar energy to power and control the boat. Students utilized the renewable energy provided by the sky and technology skills they learned in the MaD program to create the boat.

MaD student and senior Sarah Cerda suggested the greatest challenge was getting the boat powered by battery and solar panels.  “We spent most of the second semester building the boat’s frame using Douglas fir and plywood,” described Cerda. “After that, we were able to get the boat powered with strong teamwork.”

Explaining that events such as these and studying in the engineering program provided her immense opportunities, Cerda added, “I will be majoring in chemical engineering, so the collaboration skills used here can help me in the future projects like this one later in college.”

Choosing to enter Kennedy into the competition for the first time, David Indreland, the Architecture and Design teacher, spoke to the takeaway from such an experience, stating, “…We have much to learn.  We’ll be more competitive next year.”

Brad Nielsen, a senior and four year member of the MaD program, recalled the process of designing, crafting, and racing the boat, stating, “Regardless of whether or not we won, it was nice to see our work out in the field! Whatever floats your boat, and for us it was a carefully designed hull.”

While the team may not have returned the Kennedy campus with a victory, many agreed the time was well spent. Kennedy’s MaD program continues to push the limits of modern engineering and provides ample opportunity for students interested in an array of fields.


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