2/2014, In English, Koulutus ja oppiminen, Opiskelijat, Tutkimus ja innovaatiot

Boat Racing with Solar Power: Midnight Sun KYAMK – Solar Boat Team

DSC and Solar1 are both very exceptional motor racing events there isn’t smell of gasoline, loud engines, pollution or waste of nature resources. Still it’s just as exciting! Teams of engineers and students around the world design and build race boats to be as fast as possible with very limited power. All the power used by the boat has to be produced with onboard solar panels. Efficiency is the key to success.

This is the fifth edition of DSC since 2006 and during this short history the boats have taken big steps in technology. Now most teams are sponsored by local and international companies and are able to demonstrate new technological innovations in each race. Today the boats are far from simple. To build a competitive racing boat requires expertize of several fields: boat design, hydrodynamics and -statics, electrics, mechanical, material and manufacturing engineering just to mention a few. Then there are all other aspects of the project: finding sponsors and partners, arranging the build, PR, travel, etc. It’s a complex task but extremely educating and rewarding with the climax of international competition – a great opportunity to benchmark your knowledge and share experience with other teams who just have gone through the same rumble.

Photo by Kyamk files

The Midnight Sun Kyamk solar boat team consists of students and staff of the Boat Technology degree. The Boat technology is a perfect match for the competition. Designing and building the race boat meets all the aspects of students’ curriculum. It’s a great opportunity to learn, develop and test in practice the skills required in modern boatbuilding. We are very excited about the project. All the students are involved in some way. The design, manufacturing and material testing courses are all integrated to the project. Unfinished boat was shown at Helsinki International Boat show as a part of one course – a great way to get publicity for the University, sponsors and the team. There is so much to do that it’s difficult to have all the ideas “sold” to different reference groups within the tight time frame of the project. There would be great opportunities to integrate student groups from: media, industrial design, project management, logistics, software etc. to the project. However within limited time and small group of people we can’t spend too much time in selling the idea. Every now and then we get some new people excited and joining the team. The team consists mainly of boat technology students but we have a couple of software students programming the Arduino controller and some logistic students looking for the travelling options. 2012 we had also design and media students helping with video footage of the trip. This year we will see, maybe we’ll have to make do with the multitalented boat technology students. Interested?

With this year’s boat we are going to take a huge technology leap from the 2012 boat. And this is not to put down the 2012 boat, it was a great boat, but we have now raised the bar by entering the Top-class. In the Top-class boats the rules allows manufacturing custom solar panels with 500W more power than in the B-class. With 1750W array of light weight solar panels it becomes possible (and necessary in order to be competitive) to use hydrofoils. Hydrofoils are like wings in water that are used to raise the complete hull of the boat off the water. When the boat is “flying” and only the hydrofoils and propeller are still in the water the friction is in minimum and it is possible to reach maximum speed with the limited power available. The boat should reach double the speed as the B-class boat did in 2012. According to simulations we should be able to reach more than 40km/h. Flying isn’t easy, our exceptional flight control utilizes Ultrasonic sensors and accelerometers to adjust servomotor driven control surfaces on the hydrofoils. Everything is well designed and simulated but still, at the time of writing this, just ten weeks to competition, everything is still to be proofed in the test drives that are starting soon.

The weight of the boat has to be kept in minimum. This means tight weight control in everything, all the components have to be selected as light weight as possible. The hull, solar panels, driveline, hydrofoils, seat, steering wheel, more or less everything we can, we build from carbon fiber composite materials. Designing and building the molds and parts consists of everything from grinding and wet lay-up to CNC manufacturing, vacuum infusion and pre-pregs. There is something to do for all the year classes of boat tech students.

We wouldn’t be able to build the boat without support from the sponsors. Most of the materials used in the boat are sponsored by the leading companies in composite industry. It’s not all begging though, we are co-operating with the companies by testing new materials getting user experience and producing video and photo material and so on. All the companies get also positive publicity during the project and races. Research, development and innovation is major part of the project as we are developing and testing new: electric driveline, propeller, hydrofoil control system, propeller and manufacturing methods. The co-operating companies will benefit from the results. Some of the components and our designs are used in our partner teams’ Midnights Sun Mamk B-class boat as well.

There are more than twenty companies supporting the project. The project gets funding also from the European Regional Development Fund.

We are confident that in very near future there will be increasing number of commercial solar boats in the market. Finland has possibility to be one of the leading countries in this development because of projects like this and new innovative engineers entering the boat industry with real life experience in international R&D&I.

We would like to invite you to follow us preparing to the race at:
www.facebook.com/midnightsunfinland
www.kyamk.fi/midnightsun2

You can find more info and follow the races online at:
www.dongenergysolarchallenge.com
www.solar1races.com (broadcasted in Eurosport as well)

Photo by Kyamk files

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