Not giving up the ship

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Students navigate their boats through rec center pool despite some gaffs

By Ian Neligh

It may have been the worst nautical disaster in the history of high school honors physics.

The boats were sinking, floundering and drifting apart — but instead of inspiring the kind of dirge made famous by Gordon Lightfoot, there was an abundance of hilarity and laughter.

About a half-dozen boats made from cardboard and duct tape, each with a student at the helm, took to the Clear Creek Recreation Center pool on April 12. The goal was for each boat to float with its passenger on board and complete a race successfully.

Clear Creek High School science teacher Joshua Martinez said the students, mostly seniors, were demonstrating what they’d learned through the year about force, pressure and buoyancy.

“We've done a lot of smaller stuff, little things like this but not duct tape,” Martinez said. “I let them decide what they wanted to do. I've tried to put an engineering aspect into the class. I was like, ‘What do we want to build next?’ And so we came up with this.”

No one boat looked the same as another. Some were square in shape, while others looked a bit like houses and canoes.

The students previously got the chance to build bridges or participate in the traditional “egg drop” challenges, but this was the largest project yet.

Martinez said he hopes his students learn about engineering, and about what works and what doesn’t.

“Some groups are like, ‘Let's slap something together’ and other groups draw it out and they diagram it and they spend a lot of time on it,” Martinez said.

Senior Declan Emmons and his group named its boat the USS Enterprise. Emmons said he enjoyed working on the project and how much freedom students had with its design.

“When this started out, it was literally just a sheet of cardboard,” Emmons said, pointing to the Enterprise. “Over time we eventually shaped up the walls and decided, ‘Hey, let's put in double walls’ and eventually it took shape, and now I think it is a winner.”

When the race started, Emmons’ Enterprise collapsed like it took the full force from “The Wrath of Khan.”

Senior Annaliese Gould’s boat, which she piloted during the race, was called the USS Unstoppable.

“We were going with optimism,” Gould said.

Gould said she and her class partner enjoyed thinking about scenarios they planned for their boat.

“OK, so we've got to have a nose because that will kind of help shift some of the water. It’s got to have tape both on the inside and the outside because we don’t want it to sink on impact,’” Gould said.

Kind of canoeish in design, Gould said she wasn’t worried about its seaworthiness.

“We put a lot of tape in it. It should be pretty sturdy,” Gould said. “I'm not sure how far it will make it, but it was a lot of fun.”

In the end, the USS Unstoppable lived up to its name and was the only boat to finish the race.

Contact Ian Neligh at couranteditor@evergreenco.com, and check www.clearcreekcourant.com for updates and breaking news.