Students show solar innovation

Three solar boat teams from Orono Schools were shining examples of innovation at the May 19 solar boat regatta. The competition, sponsored by the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society, was held at Lake Phalen in St. Paul.

The Orono High School team, coached by teacher Mark Vonder Haar, took home first place in the experimental class. Team members are Robert Anderson, Nathan Byrne, Luke Gilmer, Tommy Good, Tony Jackley, Skyler Luetmer, D.J. Montecalvo, Carson Price and Gavan Winkels. Their boat, "O.S.E.K." (Orono Solar Electric Kayak), outperformed all competitors and was the talk of the race.

The OHS team will travel to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, June 14-17 for Solar Splash. This is the second time that the OHS team will compete in this event and, once again, it will be the only high school team among the teams of engineering students from colleges and universities in the United States and abroad.

A team of seventh- and eighth-graders from Orono Middle School placed second in the experimental class. Team members are Baldur Bjornsson, Kalvin Danielson, Teige Ehlen and Alex Welty. Their boat was "The Unknown."

"Speedy Banana" earned a team from OMS a third-place in the student class. Team members are Chris Johnston, Tully Morrison, Zach Rundell and Lily Warner.

The district’s solar boat dynasty began at the middle school with teacher Brad Jans, who continues to coach the teams there. This year, his students mentored at team from the Richfield S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) School that was made up of students in grades 2-5.

"What a great experience for my students to share their knowledge and expertise with others just starting in the program," Jans said.