Cardboard Boats

New Haven High School students race their cardboard boats made in their Physics class.

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Karlee Clear, 17, a junior at New Haven High School, paddles her cardboard boat around the course at Jury Pool as part of her physics class, taught by Matt Derby. Students raced each other for points.

New Haven students compete with physics

Katey Stahl, 17, a senior at New Haven High School, races her cardboard boat as part of her Physics class Tuesday afternoon at Jury Pool. WIth Video

There are some who think there’s nothing better than messing about in boats, and that’s what 36 New Haven High School physics students did yesterday, piloting paper boats at the Jury Pool in New Haven.

It was the 15th Annual Anchors Away Cardboard Boat Competition, and the gray skies doing nothing to dampen the spirits of the competitors, according to their teacher, Matthew Derby.

“We have fun,” said Derby, who has been teaching at the school for 31 years.

Kaylee Covella, 16, and her partner Josh Hiatt, 17, both juniors, came in 10 seconds too late to win first prize in the Cardboard Classic race, maneuvering the “little floaties” to make it in 1 minute and 8 seconds. They used a 5-by-2.5 foot refrigerator-sized box and a lot of gorilla tape to hold it in place, then covered it in plastic.

“We asked Mr. Derby to turn on the slides,” she said, but it was serious full-speed ahead for the race.

The boats can be as small as a medium-sized grocery store cardboard box for one person or a craft that can hold 10 to 12 people and come shaped like canoes, row boats, rafts and full sized barges, Derby said.

Although he is able to provide a couple of canoe paddles, students bring their own oars or power. One student “sat and rode a bicycle to make it work,” he said.

The exercise focuses on the principles of buoyancy and stability, “which is a separate issue,” Derby said, as anyone who’s been in a canoe or rowboat knows.

There’s a third principal, maneuverability, or “Can you actually get it to go where you want it to go?” he said.

Besides cardboard, students must use some sort of adhesive to hold the boat together, but it can’t be anything that would dissolve in the water. “They have to use some kind of glue. There’s lots of duct tape. We can’t mess up the park board’s pool,” Derby said.

Besides the fun of just being outside of the classroom and in the water on a warm, humid day, the students aim to be the fastest and get bonus points.

They compete in three categories: classic, mechanical or raft.

The competition counts as one lab, he explained.

“Usually, not a lot sink,” Derby said. “They just have to keep it honest and fun.”