UB team rocks the boat at annual Solar Splash competition

Members of UB's student chapter of ASME who attended the competition in Ohio (from left to right) were Ander Tillinghast, project leader (graduated 2017); Jerasak Manivong, skipper, current ASME president (expected to graduate in 2018); Chris Hannah, project leader (graduated 2017); and Ramzy Abu-Ramadan, boat technician and current project leader, (expected to graduate in 2020).

by Emily Sugarman

Published December 1, 2017

The Solar Splash competition is a 5-day annual “electric boat regatta.” The 2017 competition took place in Springfield, Ohio from June 7-11.

“We made a comprehensive checklist of what repairs and modifications must be made. This valuable knowledge, in addition to increased involvement and a bigger budget, should allow us to make significant progress for the next competition.”
Ramzy Abu-Ramadan, Boat technician
UB ASME

“These kinds of projects are what employers look for, not your 4.0 GPA, but what you did to better the world,” said Jerasak Manivong, President of UB ASME.

Manivong was the boat-driver for his four-person team and customized the operation of the boat to his preferences. Andrew Tillinghast ensured everyone was performing their duties properly — that all competition rules were followed and qualifications were met. Chris Hannah worked on the functioning of their electrical system and ensured their solar power was operative. Ramzy Abu-Ramadan contributed in any way that he could to absorb a holistic sense of the competition, as he’ll be leading next year’s team. 

The team prepared for the competition at Buffalo Maritime Center on Arthur Street, assembling a variety of new parts and developing an energetic and loyal team dynamic. Before leaving for Ohio, the team learned that their technical report was posted onto the Solar Splash website as a model for other teams — an encouraging way to begin the contest and a boost of confidence to the team, who had to be flexible with financial limitations and a limited time-frame.

The competition itself consisted of three main events: the sprint race, the endurance heat, and the slalom event. Each event is scored and weighted differently, and the team with the most points at the end wins the overall competition. 

The team had an exhilarating experience, and their performance in the competition was successful overall. In facing obstacles, they harnessed an extraordinary amount of teamwork: at one point during the endurance event, the boat completely stopped. A team member quickly went to an auto-parts store for a new bearing while the rest of the team managed to remove the boat’s shaft and old bearing. After replacing it, they made it just in time to compete in the second heat. 

“Overall, our team placed 10th out of 17 teams. Everything considered, we did not do as well as we had hoped, but it could have been much worse,” said Abu-Ramadan. “Coming into this year, we have identified that a new motor is a must-have, as our old one was also 15 years old. We have also made a comprehensive checklist of what repairs and modifications must be made. This valuable knowledge, in addition to increased involvement and a bigger budget, should allow us to make significant progress for the next competition.”

The results of the competition aside, Manivong reflects on the bigger picture: “What’s always inspiring to me is how everyone from different walks of life can come and enjoy these feats of engineering. Renewable energy is the future, and here students are implementing what they learn in the classroom to the real world.”

If a student is interested in getting involved with a competition such as Solar Splash, they should sign up for the club’s e-mail listing by reaching out to ubasme@gmail.com. In addition to participating in national competitions, ASME hosts opportunities for students to network with future employers or connect with professionals in their fields of study. ASME also provides a variety of workshops and fun events to its members. 

“I encourage everyone to get involved,” Manivong said.