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A student begins to paddle a cardboard boat in a swimming pool.
A cardboard boat is paddled past the wreckage of another cardboard boat.
A cardboard boat is carried towards a swimming pool prior to a race.
A crowd watches a cardboard boat race.
Technology teacher Matthew Baehr
A crowd watches a cardboard boat move across a swimming pool.
VIDEO: Lancaster High School Cardboard Boat Regatta Provide Fun, Engineering Lessons

Students put their engineering mettle to the test as they took cardboard boats of their own making to the pool at Lancaster High School.

In addition to learning if their design could float, they would also have to outrace their classmates in front of a bleacher full of peers from the student body. The only test prior to the regatta for their boat designs, which were constructed with only cardboard, tape and two coats of polyurethane on the bottom, was building a smaller model of their design and floating it in a sink.

“That’s where the carnage happens,” said Matthew Baehr, technology teacher and department chair.  “They have no idea how to paddle them. They’ve never seen these boats float.”

The 3rd Annual Cardboard Boat Regatta was a part of the Engineering Design and Development class and the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) curriculum. Project Lead the Way is a national initiative to prepare high school students for futures in technology and engineering. The day also gave the chance for photography students at the high school to hone their skills for class and yearbook content.

In a matter of a few heats, the success of the student designs became apparent. Some of the students completed multiple laps in their cardboard boats, with student drivers changing out at each end of the pool. Others boats were not so fortunate as they began taking on water, started sinking, and soon found themselves completely submerged.

“I was hoping we’d do well,” said Cannon Converse, who worked with Alex Ast and Luke Staffeldt on Team Battle Boat. “Everyone was saying your boat was going to sink.”

Their boat managed to rise to defy the odds to become the top finisher in their class period.

“It was super fun after all the hard work,” Cannon said.

Taylor Goodyear said she was nervous as her group, Team Go With the Flow, set off their pontoon-inspired boat, with a dragon drawn into the cardboard.

“All I was thinking was ‘Please don’t sink,’” Taylor said.

Making it multiple laps before coming undone, Taylor said she noticed ways she and her teammates Tyler Cavar and Wilbur Sosa could improve the boat’s design, including lowering a raised bench inside the boat to help with balance and modifying the boat’s wall to prevent water from entering.

That emphasis on improving designs is key for the students as they take on more advanced projects, Baehr said.

“This is an ice breaking project to get them into an engineering mindset,” he said.

More information about Project Lead the Way can be found here.

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We are thrilled to extend a warm welcome to you as part of the William Street School community! Our annual orientation program for incoming 4th-grade students and parents is scheduled for Wednesday, May 1st from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.