The boat competitions are the most popular in the Model Solar Vehicle Challenge. A simple boat can be constructed from a block of polystyrene (the packaging from a new TV, for example), a solar panel, a motor, a propeller and shaft, some weights (for balance) and a coathanger (for guidance). Yet, building a fast boat that requires understanding of sun and shadow, lightweighting, the effectiveness of different propeller shapes, and a deep understanding of hydrodynamics. Water is thick and heavy and hard to move through, so will your boat be streamlined to cut through it, or shaped so that it flies above the surface altogether?
The Junior boat competition has simple and safe restrictions over the available power from the solar panel, and over what motors can be used, and is a favourite among primary school children. For those who are looking for a challenge, the Advanced Boat competition has almost no restrictions, and is a major challenge for all students all the way to year 12.
There are fewer design decisions to be made in the boat competition compared to the student-designed cars, but every decision must be made with greater accuracy and certainty, since small changes in a boat's design can have large impacts on its performance. It is deceptively challenging. How will you fare?