Despite setbacks, Colton shows promise at Inland Solar Challenge

Stolen parts sabotaged team’s overall performance, but Colton pulls together to place 6th out of 10 teams, impressing event coordinators


Courtesy Dan Hearon

Boating Team Co-Captain Mia Zamora sets sail in the Inland Solar Challenge, held at Yucaipa Regional Park on May 19-21.

Yucaipa, CA—Last weekend, Colton High School’s boating team took to the waters at Yucaipa Regional Park and became the first group in CHS history to set sail in the Inland Solar Challenge.

Placing 5th out of the 10 competing teams*, Colton’s boating team achieved above expectations, especially as late setbacks threatened to derail the entire competition.

On May 18, the day before the team was set to enter the competition, advisor Daniel Hearon discovered that specific cables meant to connect the boat’s engines had been stolen, presumably by students in his STEAM shop classes. Support from the site’s IT department brought in a cable that was able to connect one of the boat’s two engines, which enabled the team to compete, but ensured it had little chance to place in the top 3.

“Even though the team discovered that the cables were missing, they continued to work after school and looked for solutions to resolve the issues,” said Dan Hearon, team advisor. “The team fought their way through the setbacks and challenges that we had.”

After eight months of work, the CHS boating team traveled to Yucaipa Regional on Friday to compete. The team enjoyed a weekend of challenging competition in four events: a boating drag race, a slalom race, an endurance race, and a Public Service Announcement presentation about the importance of water conservation.

One engine down, the team was unable to place in any of the races. However, they performed strongly in the PSA portion of the competition. The PSA, created by students in Ms. Lucy Leyva’s AP English Composition course, scored high on judges’ scorecards.

“I am so impressed with our students’ creativity,” said Leyva. “The PSA was chock full of original, authentic images that the students created themselves.”

Even though the racing did not go as planned, students still enjoyed their time in competition. Mia Zamora was one of the team’s two boat captains. “The most exciting part was getting to know the teams,” she said. “I really enjoyed how the other teams, especially the ones that have been there the longest, really showed their sportsmanship. It was also great to be recognized as one of the teams to do their best in the first year.”

On Saturday night, the team stayed late at Yucaipa Regional to enjoy a campfire. They had S’mores, and even interacted with some of the local wildlife, including a mountain lion.

With their first Solar Challenge in the books, Hearon is encouraged. He is already looking to add to what the team began this year. “Next year, we’ll be able to add Lithium batteries,” he said, referring to a power source that winning teams, like Cajon High School, were able to employ.

And, to hear Hearon describe it, had Colton’s boat not been sabotaged by thieves, the students’ engineering excellence may well have resulted in a much higher final place. “When we arrived, everyone was impressed with our boat’s engineering,” Hearon said. “Workers at the event shared with me that next year we have a real shot at winning.”

Cajon High School, who has won the event 9 out of the last 11 years, may have to install a rear view mirror on next year’s boat.


*June 6, 2023: Update – Due to an error on the Solar Boat Scoreboard, Colton was incorrectly awarded 6th place at the Solar Boat Challenge. They were officially awarded 5th place. The correction has been made in the article.