Campus: Cal Poly Pomona -- June 07, 2001

Cal Poly Pomona Engineering Students Seek "Upset" Success At 8th Annual Solar/Electric Boating World Championship

While sailing to Buffalo may not have quite the romantic or aesthetic allure as destinations like Tahiti, Hawaii or even Catalina, for a group of dedicated engineering students from Cal Poly Pomona a five-day stay in upstate New York will mark the culmination of nearly six months work.

Ten students and faculty advisor Thomas Banwell will travel to Buffalo to take part in Solar Splash 2001, the eighth annual world championship regatta of solar/electric boating. The event, which takes place June 20-24, will be held on Hoyt Lake in Delaware Park, adjacent to Buffalo State College.

Cal Poly Pomona's entry - christened "Upset" by the group of 20 students who have worked on the 60-pound all-electric powered craft since early January - will be sailed by "skipper" Kane Cheung, an electrical and computer engineering major from Burbank.

"We're tired but we're excited," said Cheung, who along with the rest of the students is finding time to help finish the 'Upset' during final exams. "We've worked to improve the steering and it's much better. No one is talking about winning, but I think we're going to be very competitive."

In all, teams representing 18 colleges or universities and one private high school will take part in the five-day competition. The first two days cover technical inspections and qualifying, with the final three days of on-the-water racing on Hoyt Lake - a manmade lake measuring 400 meters long and 150 meters wide with a maximum depth of 5-6 feet - featuring sprint, endurance and slalom events. Awards are also presented for best technical reports and several design categories.

With this first entry into Solar Splash, Cal Poly Pomona becomes just the second California-based university to take part in the international competition. UC Santa Barbara, competing for the fourth time since 1996, is the only other California participant.

The Cal Poly Pomona entry has had a brief but intense design and development phase. The students involved are buoyed by their enthusiasm and commitment.

"We wanted to do a solar electric project, but that takes 2-3 years to design and assemble," says team leader Dave Heisel, a mechanical engineering major from San Marcos. "People told us it couldn't be done (in so short a time). That's why we wanted to do it."

According to Solar Splash director George Ettenheim, Cal Poly Pomona's reputation in other competitions and public events make them a strong addition to this year's field.

"The university has a long tradition of producing students who know how to get things done. Not just their engineering racing program, but their annual Rose Float project as well," said Ettenheim. "Cal Poly Pomona students know the mechanical side, but they also have that hands-on, meet-a-deadline mentality you don't find at many schools."

Other members of Cal Poly Pomona's "Team Upset" include (hometowns and majors provided where available): Design group - leader Alberto Mendoza (Panama City, Panama; mechanical engineering major), Neil Levers (ME) and Joey Huang (Taiwan, China; ME); Fabrication group - leader John Garcia (La Puente; ME), Scott Chung (Whittier; engineering technology electrical) and Arman Akchyan (Glendale; ME); Propulsion group - leader Alfonso Robles (South Gate; ME), Sean Kobayashi (Cerritos; ME), Mac Delaney (engineering construction technology) and Rami Wehbe; Solar/electric group - leader Vince Gagliardo (San Francisco, engineering technology), Erika Woo (Hacienda Heights, electrical and computer engineering) and Noberto Ulloa; Public relations/proposal group - leader Edward Inocencio (Glendale, ME), Wilber Woo (ME), Jason Seieroe (ME) and Albert Zapata (ME).

Also in this year's field are entries representing the University of South Carolina; United States Coast Guard Academy; University of Arkansas; Geneva College (Pa.); College of New Jersey; Grand Valley State (Mich.); SUNY-Stony Brook; Kansas State; Marquette University; Cedarville University (Ohio); École Technologie Supérieur (Montreal, Canada); Rice University; University at Buffalo/Erie Community College; National Taiwan University; University of Maryland-Baltimore County; and Park School of Baltimore (Md.), a K-12 private school.

For additional information, check out the Solar Splash Website at . Solar Splash director George Ettenheim can be contacted by e-mail at or by phone at (520) 773-0230 until June 15. After June 15, contact Solar Splash's on-site director/coordinator Laurie Dann in Buffalo at (716) 853-9207.

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