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Students use engineering knowledge to stay afloat

Freshmen Thomas Toteff (left) and Cody Blanchard paddled their way to victory. (click for larger version)
June 12, 2013 - Oxford High School students used math, cardboard and lots and lots of duct tape to build boats for a fun relay race in the school's pool last week.

This exercise in brain-power and teamwork was part of teacher Phil Kimmel's "What is Engineering?" class, an introductory course that was part of the new OHS May-mester.

Kimmel purposely kept the rules "vague" in order to see what the students would come up with in terms of design ideas and unique ways to keep their cardboard vessels afloat.

"Nobody's going to go out into the real world and build cardboard boats for a living, but they are going to have to solve problems and understand the design process," he said.

Originally, Kimmel told students their boats had to support the weight of three people, so they based their calculations and designs with those parameters in mind.

Students had to figure out how much water their total weight would displace, then design and build boats that would transport them safely – and dryly – from one end of the pool to the other and back.

Right before the relay race, Kimmel changed the number to two people. That's consistent with one of his main lessons – in the real world, engineers must "be ready for design changes all the time." – Photos by Editor C.J. Carnacchio

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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