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Students test the waters

BONNYVILLE – Local students put their heads together to create seaworthy cardboard boats.

École des Beaux-Lacs, Dr. Bernard Brosseau School, and Assumption Jr./Sr. High School braved the tides to see how their designs faired in the Skills Canada Alberta’s Northern Cardboard Boat Races held Feb. 3 at Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT).

Participants put their design skills to the test to come up with a boat that would stay afloat and make it across a pool.

Teams were encouraged to prepare a sketch and test it out before race day. When they arrived, they were given an hour and a half to put their boat together using cardboard and tape before putting it to the test in the water.

“We sunk quickly, but we learned a lot,” laughed Margo Moyen, principal at Beaux-Lacs. “The kids watched the boats that did succeed and they understood their design flaws. It was a really neat experience.”

For the team members from Assumption, their journey was over before it began.

“We actually made an amazing boat, but our captain stumbled when he got into it and it capsized almost immediately,” recalled Assumption teacher James Morrison. “We had the rest of the team standing on the sidelines, and they sang Amazing Grace as it sunk to the bottom of the pool.”

According to Grade 12 Assumption student Ben Gale, the group decided to sing in hopes of winning the Titanic award.

“It goes to the most dramatic sinking, so he stuck his hand up as he sank and we sang Amazing Grace and saluted him,” he said, adding the team that ultimately won added an interesting feature.

“They made it a boat tub, and pulled the plug when they were ready.”

Dr. Brosseau finished in 24th and Beaux-Lacs placed 27th in the junior category, while Assumption came in 12th  for the senior schools. 

Morrison believes winning isn’t as important for the students as the experience is.

“It’s just a really fun event. We got to go to Edmonton the night before, we watched the Super Bowl together, and then we got to compete. It was just a lot of fun.”

Moyen said the event was fun for everyone who attended from their school.

“They were a little apprehensive about going, because they didn’t know what to expect, and in the end, they were really glad they went.”

Grade 12 Beaux-Lacs student Xavier Wilson added, “It was a little scary because a lot of kids were there for a few years and we were first-timers.”

Regardless of their lack of experience, the team worked together to build their boat and were pleased with the result.

“It was pretty fun how there were tons of other kids from all over Alberta,” Wilson noted.

This was Morrison’s second year attending the cardboard boat races. He sees it as a “good approach to engineering” for the students.

“They get a hands-on approach to real world problems,” he expressed. “They have to use tangible materials and they actually have to have a result at the end. It’s hard to get that when they’re learning in a textbook setting like school. That hands-on experience is better for that.”

Robynne Henry, Bonnyville Nouvelle