Return to Headlines

Coronado, Franklin race cardboard boats for annual engineering challenge

(EL PASO COUNTRY CLUB – Nov. 29, 2022) – Coronado and Franklin high school physics students put their cardboard boats to the test in November, racing across the El Paso Country Club pool to record the fastest times and see if their boats held water.

The boat race is a Coronado institution, but this year, the school invited Franklin to join in the fun, growing the competition to 41 teams. Most teams decorated their boats and continued their theme with costumes. Cars, Avatar, Barbie and Minions themed boats were among the entries hitting the water.

“It’s an engineering challenge,” said Coronado science teacher Adrian Chavez. “They’re supposed to apply basic physics principles involving forces and take materials that are naturally weak such as cardboard and masking tape and make them stronger. The majority of boats did well, but some kids couldn’t balance and tipped over.”

The boat crews raced two by two down the length of the pool in their homemade vessels secured with only masking tape and silicone sealant. Some made it across while others sank or tipped over. When all was said and done, “To Valhalla” claimed the fastest time, paddling across at 17.12 seconds to edge out runner-up Captain Jiya Patel. Both winner and runner-up were Coronado students.

Chavez has conducted the boat races every November for the past 13 years. While the pool remained warm for this event, students also battled breezy conditions with temperatures in the 40s.

“We do it in November when we’re studying forces because that’s when it comes up in the curriculum,” Chavez said. “It’s also motivation for them to build a good boat so they don’t sink and get wet. The water is warm but, once they get out that’s when it hits them.”

Coronado sophomore Andrea Garcia and her team raced their boat, Pandora, across in 22 seconds. She was confident in their boat’s abilities but felt the “Avatar”-themed design might get them accolades for design.

“We made it all the way and the boat is still intact,” said Garcia, who dressed as a Na’vi. “These types of events are a lot of fun. You have to do a lot of calculations. I like that we got out of school to do this.”

Franklin senior Anna Dixon’s team entered Boaty McBoat Face, a name the OnRamps Physics II students came up with at the spur of the moment. Initially, they thought the boat would survive the El Paso Country Club pool but a few days earlier the caulking started to come apart.

“The fact that boat is here is a miracle,” she said. “Even though we sunk at the end, we had a good time making it and racing it. I’m kind of glad we did sink. It’s all part of the fun.”