Vixen Battleship Wins Regatta. The Dam Boat is speediest, Black Pearl unsinkable

| September 24, 2007

Just prior to the start of the Cardboard Boat Regatta on Saturday, Sept. 22, crew members of The Dam Boat were trying to get a few extra points with the judges. “Dam Boat, Dam Boat, paddle hard, paddle free,” they sang. “Dam Boat, woo-woo, Dam Boat.”

The Dam Boat’s Liz Wise ’11 (left) and Katelyn Fleming ’11 were all smiles before the race. Photos by Suzanne Ramsey

“That’s completely contrary to what we normally see in engineering,” one judge said, laughing. Another agreed but admitted, “We need more of that.”

The singing must have worked. Minutes later The Dam Boat blew the rest of the teams out of the water, winning the speed portion of the competition by a margin of about 50 yards.

“It was a lot of work,” The Dam Boat member Andria Pasquel ’10 said after the race, adding that her team had put in more than 50 hours designing, testing and building their craft.

The overall winner, however, was Vixen Battleship. Their vessel, which resembled a bottom-heavy Civil War ironclad, was awarded “Best Design.” That designation, along with a third-place finish in the speed category, earned highest honors for team members Meredith Newman ’09, MaryAnne Haslow-Hall ’11 and Ellie Craddock ’11.

Vixen Battleship’s Meredith Newman ’09 (left) and MaryAnne Haslow-Hall ’11 pose with their boat.

In all, seven boats competed Saturday in the engineering program’s annual regatta. In its fourth running, the event is part of Sweet Briar’s Homecoming celebration and is sponsored by the Alumnae Association and the Boxwood Circle Society.

Judging in three categories – design, speed and buoyancy – was done by Les Beebe, head designer for Weyerhaeuser Inc.; Eric Maslen, a University of Virginia professor; Kelly Cole of Wiley & Wilson in Lynchburg, and Kent Kozak, an engineer from Trax in Forest, Va.

The students are enrolled in Engineering 110 – Designing our World: An Introduction to Engineering Design. “This is a challenging learning experience,” Dorsa Sanadgol, assistant professor of engineering, said.

“The purpose of this project is to have students work as part of a team to design and construct a buoyant vessel using only cardboard and duct tape that can be navigated in an open body of water. Cooperation and teamwork are essential components of this design project.”

To design and build the boats, each team was allowed 10 6-by-8-foot sheets of cardboard and 50 feet of duct tape. The boats could not weigh more than 20 pounds and had to be able to carry two people.

The Dam Boat takes a commanding lead.

On Saturday, the students put their designs to the test. With play-by-play provided by WSET reporter Ishmael LaBiosa, the teams raced their boats through a 265-yard-long, figure-eight-shaped course. The object was to cross the finish line first and, of course, stay afloat.

The “stay afloat” part proved problematic for three teams. Corrugated Crayon and the aptly named Soggy Ducks both sunk within arm’s reach of the dock. The Missile SS 007 managed to stay above water for only half of the race.

“It’s amazing these cardboard boxes are making it this far,” LaBiosa said as he watched the Missile’s Laura Payne ’11 and Ingrid Rice ’11 swim from their doomed vessel to shore.

After the race, the remaining boats were tested for buoyancy. To do this, five-gallon buckets of water were poured, one after the other, into each craft. The Black Pearl, a raft-style boat, won the category, refusing to sink despite repeated dousing.

Designed by Katherine Gray ’11, Sarah Jennings ’11, Kathleen Thomas ’10 and Jenna Wasylenko ’10, The Black Pearl was so unsinkable that one spectator was overheard joking about the “hidden Styrofoam” that must be inside.

“I think it was great,” Sanadgol said after the competition. “They all worked really hard. I was disappointed that two sunk immediately, but the designs were great. They were all really creative and they learned a lot, which was the whole purpose.”

Corrugated board used in construction of the boats was donated by Weyerhaeuser Inc. Trophies and Bistro Bucks, which were awarded to the winners, were provided by the development office.

— Suzanne Ramsey

Category: Engineering Science