Reece Barton, 17, left, Anthony Morrell, 15, Brock Csira, 17, and Emily Bader, 17, right, members of the Laguna Beach High School Solar Cup Team wet-sand their 16-foot flat-bottom canoe on Saturday. The team will compete in the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California's 11th annual Solar Cup in May. (SCOTT SMELTZER / January 23, 2013)

A group of Laguna Beach High School students have mastered a whole raft of skills and technology to construct and equip their entry in the 2013 Solar Cup.

Members of the high school Solar Club have spent school days and weekends since November building a boat from scratch and devising a solar power system to propel their entry to victory in the Solar Cup, a three-day regatta for solar-powered boats built by Southern California students.

"It's pretty interesting and rewarding," said club President Brock Csira, who will skipper the single-seat boat in the races. "It a way to put all of our talents and interests to use.

"And personally, if we do well in the competition, it adds to the enjoyment," he added.

Club members, who have also installed solar panels on the high school Science Building, will not receive community service credit for building and equipping the boat.

The Laguna Beach County Water District sponsors Laguna's team, which will be competing for the second year in the Solar Cup, hosted by the Metropolitan Water District, which supplies the hulls for the competing teams.

"We are upgrading from last year's entry, the 'Pride of Laguna,'" Csira said.

Laguna Beach won first place in 2012 for Best Public Service Message for a rookie team and second place for their overall finish as a rookies. The team placed 18th in the field of 39 high schools in the competition.

They hope to do better this year, with a little help from friends.

The water district supplied the space build and finish the boat.

Tex Haines, owner of Victoria Skimboards, supervised on Saturday the last of the three workshops, held in the back of the district offices, in which a protective finish was applied to the boat.

The team wet- and dry-sanded the 16-foot, flat-bottomed boat they had put together from a kit, identical to the kits given to all the teams in November. The final touch on Saturday was the paint stripe on the bottom edge of the completed hull.

"Teaching students how to apply the epoxy sealant to the hull's bare wood skin to create a low friction, light-weight, water-resistant coating will hopefully give them an edge in the competition," Haines said.

The Jim Busby Racing team in Laguna Canyon has volunteered to help with the fabrication of the boat's propulsion systems support plates and mounting brackets.

"It's great to have resources to help the kids achieve a rewarding experience," said district employee Bob Bobst.

Still to come: equipping the shell with solar panels, batteries, electrical systems, drive train, propellers and rudders.

"What makes this competition so unique is that it not only fits science, technology, engineering, math core curriculum guidelines, but it also integrates the environmental sciences along with the visual and language arts into the program's learning objectives," said club advisor Jennifer Merritt, who has taught physics for 11 years.

Club member Emily Bader, a senior, plans to study environmental engineering in college. Ninth-grader Anthony Morrell hopes to go into engineering and development of products that will be damaging to the environment.

Csira, who was named the 2013 Patriots Day Parade Junior Citizen of the Year, will pursue a degree in mechanical engineering. He has been accepted at Purdue, but is waiting to hear from other universities.

Andrew Couse celebrated his 16th birthday Saturday helping prep the boat for the competition.

"The Solar Cup competition provides students with hands-on, real world applications to solving today's challenges in water, energy and other green technologies like solar power," said Renae Hinchey, general manager of the water district.

"We are very proud of the hard work and dedication these high school students have demonstrated in a team-based competition while learning about Southern California's water sources, resource management, conservation and alternative energy development," she added.

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