Southland High School Students to Race with the Sun at Solar Cup

Metropolitan Water District’s solar-powered boat competition gives students hands-on learning opportunities in conservation, engineering, alternative energy

LOS ANGELES--()--Students from 38 high schools across Southern California will show off their boat-building and racing skills this weekend as they compete in Metropolitan Water District’s 16th annual Solar Cup™.

The action-packed weekend marks the culmination of a seven-month program during which students used lessons in engineering and alternative energy to design and build one-person, solar-powered boats.

The more than 600 students participating in this year’s competition will face off in sprint and endurance races at Metropolitan’s Lake Skinner in southwest Riverside County’s Temecula Valley beginning this Friday, May 18, and concluding Sunday, May 20.

Solar Cup is the nation’s largest solar-powered boating competition, featuring students from Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties. The program gives students the opportunity to put to practical use their math and science skills and provides them additional hands-on lessons in water resources, alternative energy development and sustainability.

“We’re creating future engineers, water resource managers and conservationists. We’re helping build Metropolitan’s future workforce,” said Solar Cup coordinator Julie Kalbacher, a state-certified teacher with Metropolitan’s education programs.

“But even more importantly, we’re getting students thinking on their feet, working in teams to find practical solutions. Those are valuable skills in any field,” she added.

To build their 16-foot, single-seat boats, veteran teams are given $2,500 and rookie teams are given $4,000, through sponsorships from Metropolitan’s member agencies. Students spent afternoons and weekends for months building the boats, deciding which solar panels, batteries, motors, propellers and other components to buy for their boats, and then figuring out how to arrange those components—all with the goal of creating the fastest boat possible. Boats are limited to 320 watts in their solar panels and face a handful of other technical restrictions, but there is a lot of flexibility in how they can be built, Kalbacher said.

“There is not one right way to do this. The answer requires creative and critical thinking. That’s the kind of challenge these kids will face in the real world,” she said.

“And sometimes once teams get to Lake Skinner and get their boats out on the water, they find themselves facing last-minute problems as the competition unfolds—a loose wire, the boat taking on unexpected water—and they have to troubleshoot while the pressure is on,” Kalbacher added.

But before they hit the water, teams are put through a series of qualifying events by Metropolitan and a technical advisory team from Occidental College to ensure boats meet the program’s requirements and are safe and seaworthy.

On Friday, May 18, the boats will be qualified and tested on Lake Skinner. The competition begins Saturday, May 19, when the teams face off in two 90-minute endurance heats around a 1.6-kilometer course and continues Sunday, May 20, with 200-meter sprint races in which the boats are powered by solar energy stored in batteries.

Solar Cup concludes with an awards ceremony on Sunday afternoon. Trophies are awarded in veteran and rookie divisions for teams with the highest points, as well as to teams honored for “Hottest-Looking Boat,” teamwork and sportsmanship. Among the 38 teams in this year’s Solar Cup are five schools participating for the first time. They will compete in a rookie division.

As part of the program, the teams also created social media campaigns on the importance of water conservation. Teams produced Snapchat-based videos and photo campaigns under the theme, “Water conservation: it’s not about the weather, it’s about forever.” Along with racing results, teams earn points from these public service messages, as well as technical inspections and completion of technical reports.

Over the past 16 years, more than 10,000 students have participated in Solar Cup. The program began in 2002 with eight teams and about 80 students. In the years since, it has grown into the nation’s largest solar-powered boat competition.

Learn more about Solar Cup at

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is a state-established cooperative of 26 cities and water agencies serving nearly 19 million people in six counties. The district imports water from the Colorado River and Northern California to supplement local supplies, and helps its members to develop increased water conservation, recycling, storage and other resource-management programs.


List of 2018 Solar Cup Teams

Member Agency Sponsor       Team/School Name       School District       City
Anaheim Public Utilities       Anaheim High School       Anaheim Union HS District       Anaheim
Burbank Water & Power       Burbank High School       Burbank USD       Burbank
Long Beach Water Department       Cabrillo High School**       Long Beach USD       Long Beach
Las Virgenes MWD      

Calabasas High School

      Las Virgenes USD       Calabasas
Inland Empire Utilities Agency*       Chino High School       Chino Valley USD       Chino
Municipal Water District of Orange County*       Coast High School       Huntington Beach Union HS District       Huntington Beach
City of Compton       Compton High School       Compton USD       Compton
Municipal Water District of Orange County*       Costa Mesa High School**       Newport Mesa USD       Costa Mesa
San Diego County Water Authority       Del Lago Academy       Escondido Unified HS District       Escondido
Central Basin MWD       Downey High School       Downey USD       Downey
Western MWD*       Elsinore HS / Lakeside HS       Lake Elsinore USD       Wildomar
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power       Franklin High School       Los Angeles USD       Los Angeles
Three Valleys MWD*       Fremont Academy of Engineering & Design       Pomona USD       Pomona
Three Valleys MWD*       Ganesha High School       Pomona USD       Pomona
Eastern MWD       Hemet USD Team       Hemet USD       Hemet
San Diego County Water Authority       High Tech High North County       San Marcos USD       San Marcos
Pasadena Water & Power       John Muir High School       Pasadena USD       Pasadena
San Diego County Water Authority       +       San Diego USD       San Diego
Foothill MWD*       La Cañada High School       La Cañada USD       La Cañada Flintridge
Upper San Gabriel Valley MWD       Los Altos High School       Hacienda La Puente USD       Hacienda Heights
Inland Empire Utilities Agency*       Los Osos High School       Cucamonga School District       Rancho Cucamonga
Long Beach Water Department       McBride High School       Long Beach USD       Long Beach
West Basin MWD       Mira Costa High School       Manhattan Beach USD       Manhattan Beach
Upper San Gabriel Valley MWD       Mountain View High School       El Monte Union HS District       El Monte
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power       Narbonne High School       Los Angeles USD       Harbor City
Western MWD*       Norte Vista High School       Riverside USD       Riverside
Eastern MWD       Nuview Bridge Early College HS       Nuview Union School District       Nuevo
Municipal Water District of Orange County*       Oxford Academy       Cypress School District       Cypress
West Basin MWD       Palos Verdes Peninsula High School       Palos Verdes Peninsula USD       Rolling Hills Estates
Central Basin MWD       Paramount High School West       Paramount USD       Paramount
Eastern MWD       Perris Union High SD Team (Heritage HS; Paloma Valley HS; Perris HS)       Romoland School District       Romoland
Western MWD*       Riverside Poly High School       Riverside USD       Riverside
Three Valleys MWD       San Dimas High School       Bonita USD       San Dimas
Long Beach Water Department       Sato High School       Long Beach USD       Long Beach
Inland Empire Utilities Agency*       Upland High School**      

Chaffey Joint Union High SD

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power       Venice HS STEMM Magnet       Los Angeles USD       Los Angeles
West Basin MWD       Waterfront Education**       Los Angeles USD       Redondo Beach
Upper San Gabriel Valley MWD       West Covina High School       West Covina USD       West Covina
* = has co-sponsor(s)
** = Rookie


Metropolitan Water District of Southern California
Rebecca Kimitch
(213) 217-6450
(202) 821-5253, mobile
Bob Muir
(213) 217-6930
(213) 324-5213, mobile


Metropolitan Water District of Southern California
Rebecca Kimitch
(213) 217-6450
(202) 821-5253, mobile
Bob Muir
(213) 217-6930
(213) 324-5213, mobile