Asee peer logo

Solar Boat/ Solar Car Challenging Projects For First Year Students

Download Paper |


2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1125.1 - 10.1125.9



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Troy McBride

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Solar Boat/ Solar Car -- Challenging projects for first-year students

Troy McBride Department of Physics and Engineering Elizabethtown College, Elizabethtown, PA 17022 email:

1. Introduction In the Spring semesters of 2003 and 2004, first year engineering students at Elizabethtown College were assigned time-consuming, challenging projects in the “Introduction to Engineering” course as part of their required curriculum. In the Spring of 2003, the assigned project was the design and construction of a solar-powered boat capable of carrying one person around the College lake in minimal time; the Spring 2004 project was similar – the design and construction of a solar-powered endurance vehicle (i.e., solar go-kart). I believe that these future engineers benefit from experiencing all facets of a project at an early stage – design, 3-D modeling, competitive presentation, project management, ordering, construction, testing, completion, and final write-up. These projects were both very successful with the teams coming together to complete the projects, as well as frustrating to some peer professors relating to perceived declining performance of students in other courses. In this paper, I will relate my experiences in assigning challenging, time-consuming projects to first year students.

In both projects, students were given two items: a 120 Watt solar panel and $400, with the further stipulation that no pre-fabricated items (boat, scooter, electric trolling motor, etc.) could be used without instructor permission. The students truly started from scratch –developing 3-D models, proposing and purchasing items, and finally assembling and testing their vehicles. These projects are effectively a hands-on application of the main topics in our Introduction to Engineering cycle: problem-solving, design, 3-D modeling, teamwork, project management, and communication skills.

“Introduction to Engineering” is a year-long course for first year engineering students. This survey- type course is “half” credit (two academic credits compared with the typical four credit course at the College) and meets four hours each week for the Fall and Spring fourteen week semesters. The Fall semester course covers the topics of history of engineering, engineering majors and career paths, problem solving, design, project management, teamwork, oral presentation skills, technical writing, and some basic computing skills using a spreadsheet (statistics, solution of equations, and optimization). A community-based project is assigned in the Fall semester to connect and apply these subjects.1 In the Spring semester, the course covers four topics, as well as the major project – sketching and graphics, Solid Edge 3-D modeling software, Matlab software (including 3-D plotting, solution of simultaneous equations and optimization), and engineering ethics.

“Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education”

McBride, T. (2005, June), Solar Boat/ Solar Car Challenging Projects For First Year Students Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14205

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2005 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015