SNOW HILL – Snow Hill Middle School students put their cardboard vessels to the test last week in the third annual Cardboard Boat Regatta.
Last Friday, nearly 70 eighth-grade students in Denis Jenkins’ Gateway to Technology class set sail along the Pocomoke River to test their hand-crafted cardboard boats.
While some vessels featured rudimentary designs, others included spray paint, on-board seating and cupholders. The students’ creations, however, did not stop many from sinking.
Jenkins said students spent weeks designing and crafting their boats using lessons on Archimedes’ principle – the law that something immersed in fluid is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the fluid displaced.
“We’re learning about buoyancy,” he said. “Basically, if the container is lighter than whatever is surrounding it it’s going to float.”
To that end, Jenkins said students used a countless number of cardboard boxes and nearly 100 rolls of tape to build their vessels.
“They had to follow a design process,” he said. “Basically, they did the research, made a blueprint of the boat and calculated its buoyancy with a formula that tells them how much the boat will go down when they get in the water,” he said. “From there, they were only allowed to use cardboard and tape and nothing else. Then it becomes survival of the fittest and who can last the longest. The timer starts when you go in the water and the timer stops when you sink.”
While they will be graded on the work completed in class, Jenkins said the annual Cardboard Boat Regatta was a chance for students to showcase their designs.
“They are not being graded on their performance in the water,” he said. “They are being graded on everything up to that. This is just for fun.”
Student Bryce Purnell said he spent about two months building his own cardboard pontoon boat.
“We had to make an orthographic drawing, which is a blueprint of it,” he said. “So we had to sketch it out and make sure everything’s the right measurements so it would float.”
Although his boat collapsed upon entering the water, Purnell said he had fun.
“There was not a lot of support in the middle,” he joked.
Student Kaylee Thornton, whose vessel resembled a more traditional rowboat, said efforts to launch her group’s boat were thwarted by unstable cardboard siding and tiny holes in the bottom of the boat.
“It was successful for a split second when my friend got in,” she said, “but when I got in the water started coming into the boat.”
Thornton, however, praised the event.
“It was amazing,” she said. “I’m so glad I got to do this in my last year at the middle school. I think building the boat was an experience we will never forget. You’ll never get an opportunity to do something like this again.”
Jenkins said participation has grown since the first regatta in 2016 and credited local businesses, including the Pocomoke River Canoe Company and Continental Cycles, for making the event a reality.
“It’s getting closer to becoming a two-part event,” he said.