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 Junior Ecoryon Spencer is the sole sailor in Mr. Car Boat during the cardboard boat regatta for physics students at Grosse Pointe North High School Jan. 28.

Junior Ecoryon Spencer is the sole sailor in Mr. Car Boat during the cardboard boat regatta for physics students at Grosse Pointe North High School Jan. 28.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Regatta puts students’ physics knowledge to the test

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published February 4, 2020

 North students Sarah Hamouda and Lindsey Brewer compete in their boat, the USS Laundry.

North students Sarah Hamouda and Lindsey Brewer compete in their boat, the USS Laundry.

Photo by Deb Jacques

GROSSE POINTE WOODS — “Boats in the water,” Grosse Pointe North High School teacher Don Pata called out. “Let’s get ready to roll.”

On Jan. 28, teachers Pata and Jaime Hainer held the school’s 10th annual physics cardboard boat regatta at the school pool. Nine teams of students from physics, honors physics and Advanced Placement physics classes participated in the regatta.

“I think we did pretty well. We always know a few boats won’t make it,” Hainer said. “Through this process, the students learned about engineering, designing and prototyping. All the kids I talked to said it was a lot of fun.”

For the project, the students made boats using only duct tape and cardboard. Each boat held two students. The students used oars to race their cardboard boats from one end of the pool to the other. Each boat had a name. The ultimate goal was to smoothly sail without tipping over. Some of the vessels made it, while others sank.

With cheers from students, staff and parents in the stands, the boats were off. During heat No. 5, it was Kobe versus USS John Dakin versus Wilson. Kobe, named in honor of late Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, got off to a strong start. Juniors Julia Stein and Maddie Kohler really knew how to maneuver their watercraft and kept the lead. Wilson came in second place, followed by USS John Dakin in third.

Stein and Kohler said their group named their boat after Kobe Bryant “to pay our respects.” The basketball star, one of his daughters and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash Jan. 26.

Stein, Kohler and juniors Dimitri Tsakos, Louis Randazzo and Maegan Daher all worked on their project as a team. Tsakos said the boat had to be at least 8 feet long, 3 feet wide and 2 feet tall.

“We did a day of notes in class,” Tsakos said. “We learned how to calculate the buoyancy. We had a great time building it.”

“It’s on top of my high school memory list,” Kohler said.

Seniors Dylan Davis and Lauren Brown and junior Ecoryon Spencer were among the students who constructed Mr. Car Boat. Spencer was the sole sailor in the boat, which eventually tipped over.

According to a cardboard boat regatta brochure distributed last Tuesday, the first-ever regatta occurred in 1974 at Southern Illinois University. Dr. Richard Archer, a professor of art and design, came up with the idea of designing and racing a cardboard boat as a final exam for his freshman design classes.

According to the brochure, the cardboard boat regattas have become annual events at schools, lakes and campgrounds nationwide.

“Though the event was started in the realm of art and design, cardboard boats illustrate numerous physics principles,” the brochure states. “This makes physics a perfect place to have this project.”