Eighth-place MTSU engineering team earns major ...

Eighth-place MTSU engineering team earns major ‘Solar Splash’ awards

Following back-to-back second-place finishes in 2015-16, MTSU’s solar boat team placed eighth overall — and racked up two major awards along the way — in the annual Solar Splash international competition.

The event was held earlier in June on the lake adjacent to the Clark County Fairgrounds in Springfield, Ohio.

Solar boat team members make changes during Solar Splash.

MTSU solar boat team members Dustin Falls, left, Brad Eckles, Dayana Edison, Eli little, Steven Little ( Eli’s father) and David Henderson make changes to their boat during the Solar Splash competition in Ohio. (Submitted photo)

Solar Splash, officially named the International Intercollegiate Solar/Electric Boat Regatta, is the world championship of intercollegiate solar/electric boating. Teams come from across the country and internationally to compete.

Once again, host Cedarville University earned first-place honors and was named Collegiate World Champion. The University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez placed second. Carnegie Mellon of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, earned third place.

MTSU’s top finish was third in the Sprint category, finishing behind winner Cedarville and runner-up Puerto Rico-Mayaguez.

The MTSU entry shined in earning Outstanding Workmanship and Outstanding Electrical System Design awards.

“With a new team and new boat, there were a number of learning opportunities, too,” said Joel Clements, a graduate assistant in the Department of Engineering Technology’s Experimental Vehicles Program. “The competition we faced was very good.”

Clements said the team fared well despite seeing its vessel nearly sank during a test run on Percy Priest Lake before leaving for the Ohio event.

“As Dr. (Saeed) Foroudastan (team adviser) told us, we were there to learn and have fun,” Clements said.

Clements recognized the role played by student veterans on the respective solar boat and Baja SAE experimental vehicles.

“These guys were great,” he said, referring to the solar boat’s Brad Echols and Dustin Falls and Baja’s David Hasty. “They showed maturity … they are going to be successful. They might say, ‘That doesn’t work. We can’t quit.’ They’ll find a way. I wish more people could benefit from that (veteran influence).”

The MTSU Baja Society of Automotive Engineers team encountered a transmission breakdown on a transport vehicle en route to its national competition in Peoria, Illinois. It forced them to miss the technical inspection and meant they could not compete, said team member Brad Hobbs.

“We are already in the design phase for the next one (2018),” said Hobbs, adding he anticipates additional testing and travel time to be part of the team’s plans.

To learn more about the program, visit or call 615-494-8786.

— Randy Weiler (

MTSU speeds to a third-place showing in the Sprint competition during the 2017 Solar Splash international event. (Submitted photo)


MTSU solar boat team races for top spot at 2017 world competition

MTSU’s solar boat team is ready to shine again at this year’s Solar Splash World Championship in Ohio.

Solar Splash, the world championship for intercollegiate solar/electric boating, hosts a five-day competition that seeks to show the feasibility of solar energy and promote interest in science and technology. This year’s showdown runs from Wednesday to Sunday, June 7-11, at the Clark County Fairgrounds in Springfield, Ohio, and will feature 12 teams from across the country.

Team co-captain Bradley Eckles hopes MTSU will snag first place after landing second place the past two years. The team is a part of the Experimental Vehicles Program within the Department of Engineering Technology.

Members of the 2017 MTSU solar boat team

Members of the 2017 MTSU solar boat team are shown at a lake testing of the craft earlier this year. Pictured, from left, are Dayana Edison, Matthew Eckles, Brad Eckles, professor Saeed Foroudastan, Rick Taylor, Eli Little, David Henderson, Dustin Falls, Cary Woodson. Not shown is Joel Clements. The boat will compete in the Solar Splash World Championship held June 7-11 in Springfield, Ohio. (Submitted photo)

“This boat is absolutely a team effort; 20 to 30 students have participated in building this craft so we hope to place real well,” Eckles said.

Competition judges look for a number of factors when determining the top solar-powered boats such as performance, speed, boat aesthetics and technology.

With 23 years of avionics experience with the Air Force, Eckles remains confident about the final tweaks of wiring he’s helped with to ensure the solar boat will withstand most of the obstacles and tests it will face.

Before the race begins, all boats will go through safety inspections by competition officials.

“Our pilots have to do a swim test and weigh-in, and then they have to inspect the boats for safety because all of these are experimental vehicles,” Eckles said.

Solar Splash is an educational experience that allows the development of teamwork and enhancement of several skills outside of engineering. This year’s MTSU team hopes the third time’s the charm after its consecutive second-place finishes.

Team member Dustin Falls joined the solar boat team less than a month ago, but has contributed nicely to the sleek True Blue boat’s setup.

“I’ve mostly been working on the drive train, everything from the electrical motors down, I’ve been a part of,” Falls said.

MTSU’s 2017 solar boat entry is shown on campus this week amid final tweaks before the student-led team loads and transports it to the 2017 Solar Splash World Championship held June 7-11 in Springfield, Ohio. (MTSU photo by Jayla Jackson)

Across the board, the summer heat didn’t stop the team’s efforts inside the Voorhies Engineering Technology lab space of getting its work finished in time for the event.

“It’s summer and I’ve got some extra time,” Falls said. “I’ve only got so many classes during the summer so I was able to come help out a little bit more.”

In addition to Eckles and Falls, team captain Eli Little and David Henderson will be traveling to Ohio, although several other students have worked on the entry. Learn more about Solar Splash at

Other projects in MTSU’s Experimental Vehicles Program include the lunar rover, formula hybrid and Baja Society of Automotive Engineers off-road vehicle. Professor Saeed Foroudastan, associate dean in the College of Basic and Applied Sciences, serves as faculty adviser.

For more information about the program, call 615-494-8786 or email Foroudastan at

— Jayla Jackson (