University plans faster splash

A team of academics and students at the University of Southampton have begun work on a fast, solar-electric powered boat which they expect to be even better than the award winning one they entered in last year's Solar Splash event.

Team 'Tarka' led by Dr Peter Wilson at the University's School of Electronics and Computer Science, will compete in the event, which will take place in Arkansas from June 9th to 13th.

Last year was the first time that any British university had entered a boat. Despite having little budget and having to find the motor on eBay, they still managed to come in the top 10, winning several awards, notably the 'Rookie Team with the Highest Overall Score' and a top three finish in the qualifying event. As a result, the team now says it has one of the 'elite' boats for 2010.

"Last year, we managed to produce a boat which was simple and light," said Dr Wilson. "This year, due to our new laboratory facilities, carbon fibre expertise and our advances in solar powered technology, we can invest in a more professionally engineered boat aiming to be one of the most sophisticated solar-powered boat ever designed within the constraints of the Solar Splash competition. Furthermore, this is now a University wide team, with significant contributions from the schools of Electronics and Computer Science, and Ship Science."

In order to develop their ideas and materials further, the team is seeking collaboration with local businesses interested in 'green' boats as an alternative to traditional gas guzzling craft, aerospace, engineering or general manufacturing. In 2009 a number of companies sponsored key elements of the boat to its successful outcome but the team is now looking for sponsors at different levels for this year's competition.

Tom Shelley

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