Students encounter science first-hand during 3rd annual cardboard regatta |

Students encounter science first-hand during 3rd annual cardboard regatta

To build a boat

Bridget Manley
Chris Wilson, left, and Matt Herschberg, respectively dressed as Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain, paddle their politically themed boat, the USS America, to shore Tuesday at Loudy-Simpson Park. The duo finished with the fastest time of 1:19 in the Moffat County High School Science Olympics Cardboard Regatta Boat Race.
Hans Hallgren

With paddles flailing, Brodie Schulze and Nathan Ellgen tried to move away from shore.

They didn’t get far.

About six feet away from the muddy, weed-strewn edge of a pond at Loudy-Simpson Park, their craft, Pirate, capsized, dumping its two-man crew into the chilly water.

The maiden voyage of six watercraft kicked off the third-annual Moffat County High School Cardboard Regatta Boat Race. The competition pits high school students, like juniors Schulze and Ellgen, against each other to build the most water-worthy craft out of cardboard and duct tape.

The event is one of several in a series of Science Olympics competitions scheduled throughout the year. Other annual events include a pumpkin chucking contest and a cardboard sled race.

The boat race has been a popular event during the three years that the high school has offered it.

Roger Spears, MCHS science teacher, thinks its popularity can be chalked up to the competition’s uniqueness.

“I think it’s a little out of the ordinary,” he said.

In teams, students spend time out of class making their boats. Boat construction is required for advanced science classes, but other students can volunteer to participate.

Students can use only certain materials in making their boats: cardboard, duct tape and a few other approved substances.

When the boats are completed, teachers hand out various awards, including one for the best decorated vessel and another for the boat deemed most likely to sink.

Students receive a grade for their boats. But, given the cold weather this year, piloting the boats at Loudy-Simpson was optional.

Combined, about 14 teams made boats, but only six of those took them to the water.

But students who chose to brave the waters got a chance to prove their crafts’ integrity.

One of those crafts, “Dirty Hippy,” was MCHS senior Autumn Taylor’s second attempt to build a cardboard boat that would float.

Last year, she said, her boat floated well. This year, she added, she and her team of four students were aiming to land the award for the best decorated vessel.

As the boat moved away from shore during the regatta, however, “Dirt Hippy” lived up to its name.

It got dirty.

Muddy water splashed its neon-pink cardboard hull as its occupants, armed with rainbow-striped paddles, strained to maneuver the craft into a figure eight around a pair of buoys.

Once again, Taylor’s craft stayed afloat.

Juniors Ty DeGuelle and Jarrod Stillion were another pair to make it back to shore without sinking.

Their secret?

“We double layered it,” Stillion said.

DeGuelle jumped in, adding “We made a smaller box out of a big box.”

A partition in the middle of the craft and a solid layer of duct tape on its bottom also helped it keep its watertight integrity, they said.

But it’s not just buoyancy that counts in this event. Speed also matters.

“USS America,” piloted by juniors Matt Herschberg and Chris Wilson, took first place in the event, blazing through with a time of 1:19.

By participating in the race, students can learn about buoyancy and density first-hand.

“You’re learning at the same time you’re participating and having fun while you’re doing it,” Spears said.

“I think all of us agree that you learn more by doing.”

Bridget Manley can be reached at 875-1795 or


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