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UNI team to compete in international solar electric boat competition

June 11, 2003

Recayi Pecen, UNI assistant professor of industrial technology, (319) 273-2598
Vicki Grimes, University Marketing & Public Relations, (319) 273-2761

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- Three seniors and a recent graduate of the University of Northern Iowa's electrical and information technology program will be competing later this month in the 10th Annual World Championship Solar Electric Boat Regatta in Buffalo, N.Y.

UNI e-Boat team members are Chad Clark of Cedar Rapids, Dan Frisch of Waterloo, Aaron Mitchell of Manchester and May graduate Derek Paulus of Rockford. Their adviser is Recayi Pecen, UNI assistant professor of industrial technology and program coordinator for their major, Iowa's first four-year engineering technology major in the electrical and electronics area. They are working on daily test and performance drives on the lake at George Wyth State Park through Sunday, June 15.

This is the second year UNI has entered the competition. The foursome began modifications last fall on the 110-pound fiberglass solar electric boat created by last year's team. Changes include two new electric motors, two new controllers, enhanced electrical wiring, a better cockpit control area and one new solar panel.

The UNI solar electric boat team will leave Tuesday, June 17 for the world championship of solar electric boating that runs Wednesday, June 18, through Sunday, June 22. More than two dozen schools have entered the competition, including the U.S. Naval Academy, Milwaukee School of Engineering and Rice University. They will compete in slalom, sprint and endurance races using either direct solar energy or solar energy stored in electric batteries.

Pecen said UNI's zero-emission solar boat promotes eco-friendly boat technologies on Iowa lakes and rivers. He said studies show a considerable amount of oil and gas leaks and run-offs into the water from internal combustion boat motors. He added that 'solar powered zero emission boats may help Iowa lakes and rivers in the near future until hydrogen fuel cell motors become commercially available almost everywhere.'

Pecen said worldwide, 236,000 metric tons of oil and oil products are leaked into the water through boats, 'more than seven times the amount spilled by the Exxon Valdez in Alaska in 1989.'

The project has been funded for a three-year period by a $15,000 grant from the Iowa Energy Center. Sponsors for the UNI solar electric boat include Blain's Farm and Fleet, John Deere Product Engineering Center, Iowa Energy Center, Optima Batteries, Rockwell Collins, WBM Marine and UNI.