Third Annual Cardboard Boat Races

April 5 – Kate Daly’s eighth grade science students discovered that with two sheets of 4x8-foot cardboard, two rolls of duct tape, two wooden dowels, and two empty 2-liter soda bottles, they could design and build a boat seaworthy enough to carry one team member across a 75-foot-long pool.
Or, as eighth grader Aggy explained, “When these materials come together, they create a vessel capable of overcoming the downward force of gravity to float on water by the power of buoyancy.”
Students worked in teams of four or five to conceptualize and construct their boats. They collaborated on design, carefully measuring and cutting – sometimes multiple times. They developed techniques for taping the cardboard pieces together so that the seams were watertight. “It was real hands-on learning,” Ms. Daly explained. “The students had learned about Archimedes Principle and buoyancy. They understood the concepts in an intellectual way. But with the boats, the concepts sprang to life. Especially when it came time to compete in the pool at the Boys & Girls Club!”         

And they weren’t just competing against themselves; one parent group stepped up to the challenge (congratulations Kevin Kennedy for a race well paddled!), and the RCS Maintenance team did, too (Carlos Londono designed it, John Broderick, Bob Cherubini, and Carlos Londono built it, and Jay Oliver raced it).
Greatest Boat-Building Challenge

When we asked students what their greatest challenge was building the boats, they had a lot to say:
35% – measuring: “A challenge we faced was figuring out the measurements for the sides. Based on what we learned in class, we attempted to make the boat as large as possible without running out of resources.” – Mya  “We did have to make changes throughout the project; we changed the dimensions of the boat.” – Cole  “I thought building the boat would take the longest but it was actually the design and measurement that took the longest and was the hardest.” – Maki 
28% – limited duct tape: “A challenge our team faced was moderating the amount of duct tape we used on parts of the boat.” – Gardner  “Running out of duct tape was a major problem because we wanted to cover the whole boat.” – Zach 
16% – determining the size: “One challenge we faced was deciding how large to build our boat.” – Aidan  “The size was a big issue as we didn’t know who was going in our boat and we kept switching.” – Nate  “I assumed that creating the boat would be relatively easy but I didn’t consider having to adjust the boat’s size to the captain, how the boat is shaped, and how the weight is distributed.” – David 
9% – design: “Our biggest challenge was coming up with a design theme.” – Maddy  “Picking a design in general that everyone was happy with.” –Aggy 

6% – limited resources: “We used too many materials too early.” – Josh
6% – construction: “Some of the building and taping was hard.” – Jay
The Race Results
There were three heats to start (one for each eighth grade section) and then a final heat with the three winners from each class. “The three fastest boats were still fairly dry for the final heat,” Ms. Daly said. “I think that was because they had raced across the pool the first time in less than a minute.”

First Place
Chloe Person-Hoffer (sailor)
Lizzie Diamond
Brandon Hackett
Jack O’Callaghan
Second Place
Kat Trantzas (sailor)
Sam Federman
Jack Cicchelli
Juliet Kaufmann
Nicky Gimbel
Third Place
Luke Bai (sailor)
Gardner Heitzmann
Rowan McGinnis
Hailey Doniger
“The boat project was such a success because so many people came together,” Ms. Daly said. “The parents who came to watch. The Maintenance team that carefully transported the boats to the Boys & Girls Club pool. The Boys & Girls Club. Our timekeepers: Brooks Eleck, Heather Levinson, Colm MacMahon, and Missy Swan. Miles Cameron at the starting line, helping the students get organized and get in the boats.”

“And it was a success because of all the skills students are learning in my science classes – collaboration, planning, designing, problem-solving – all skills that apply to any field, any career, not just science. It’s not just about understanding buoyancy.”  

Zach Sherman probably summed up the cardboard boat project best: “I assumed the project would be fun and I was right.”

PHOTOGRAPHY: Rhonda Spevak
Rippowam Cisqua School
439 Cantitoe Street 
Bedford, NY 10506
phone: (914) 244-1250
Rippowam Cisqua School is a PreK-Grade 9 independent day school in Westchester County, New York. RCS offers challenging academics built on innovation, fine and performing arts, competitive athletics, wellness, leadership, service learning, and a wide selection of extracurricular activities.
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