Penn Manor High School Physics students recently set sail in the Millersville University swimming pool in boats made entirely of cardboard and duct tape.
The competition was the brainchild of Penn Manor High School physics teacher Barney Peace, who challenged his student to design, build and pilot the boats to compete in the Cardboard Regatta. The event, held in two heats in December and March, was made possible with a $2,642 grant from Penn Manor Education Foundation to cover pool rental fees.
About 160 students participated, either in the water or by helping their peers get into their boats, timing the race heats, breaking down the soggy cardboard creations or serving as commentators.
Students had to provide the cardboard and duct tape for each vessel. Prior to construction, they learned about Archimedes’ principle of buoyancy — force equals the weight of the water displaced.
They used that concept and density to calculate the water level on the sides of their boats. They also calculated the maximum mass their boats could hold. Many students doubled the layers of cardboard or added extra support to help their boats stay afloat longer.
While helpers held their cardboard creations in the water, two students got into each boat to begin their race heat, which was timed by student volunteers waiting at the other end of the pool. Most boats were successfully paddled by hand across the pool. Once on the other side, weight was added as more students piled into the cardboard creations until they invariably, sank.
“The success of this type of project depends on the efforts of the students, and with so many boats reaching their destination, I think they rose to the challenge,” said Mr. Peace. “This is a great activity that allows students to apply what they learn in the classroom and have a lot of fun.”
Many thanks to Mr. Peace for submitting a Venture Grant request for this project!