Teams vie to stay afloat during Challenge Day
By Maggie Blackwell
“Team 21! Team 21! I need your two swimmers!” Rowan-Salisbury schools’ AIG facilitator Wanda Kluttz called above the cheers, splashing, and echoes.
Thursday was not a normal education day for 173 fifth-graders who convened at the JF Hurley YMCA for the system’s annual Challenge Day.
The program, sponsored by Horizons Unlimited, challenged fifth-graders from every school to build a boat from recycled products ń a boat that would support a student down the length of the Y’s pool.
Students were required to build prototypes at an exact 1:3 ratio to the actual boat, and submit them prior to building the boat.
Mary Beth Taylor, the AIG teacher at Landis Elementary School, had two teams of students who participated: Team Flair and the Untitled Evils. Each team was comprised of five students.
Alex Deal, 11, drew up plans for Team Flair’s prototype, complete with detailed measurements. The whole team proudly pointed to his schematic. They planned to use PVC pipe, soda bottles, duct tape, and cardboard. Katie Hepp, the lightest team member, was selected to ride the boat at the Y. The team explained that each member had a role in the project.
The Untitled Evils used milk jugs for their flotation devices, along with PVC pipe and cardboard. The shape of their boat was different. They selected Amanda Warren to ride their boat.
All teams had only two weeks to develop their plans, select their materials, and build their prototypes.
Finally, the Big Day arrived. Teams gathered in the gym at the Y to submit their prototypes for judging, and to construct their real boats. At about noon, they were called to enter the pool area.
“This is not a race,” Kluttz reminded the students. “It’s strictly about whose design works. No booing, please! We only want to encourage!”
Eight teams at a time launched their boats into the water. Safety was paramount. The Y provided a lifeguard. Horizons provided staff, all in wetsuits, who patrolled the pool lanes for support. The students who rode the boats wore life jackets.
Gingerly they launched the boats. Shakily the students mounted them, then began to paddle toward the deep end.
Considering that most boats used similar materials, the variety was amazing. Long boats and short boats, drivers reclining and sitting upright, the boats tottered and bobbled eastward towards encouraging teachers, their arms outreached.
As a rule, those that were un-seaworthy dumped immediately. A few filled with water gradually and sank about halfway down the pool. Overall, about half made it all the way to the end of the pool.
Team Flair was victorious as Katie reached the end of the pool. The Untitled Evils did not fare as well. Their boat sank before it left the shallow end.
After the challenge, students reconvened in the gym to debrief: to go over what went well, what went not-so-well, and why.
Taylor shared that she taught for the experience well ahead of time. Students had to understand buoyancy, streamlining, and proportion. In addition, they learned valuable lessons in teamwork.
Overton students talked about teamwork. They agreed the project took patience, people skills, and cooperation. Kayla Honeycutt offered up honesty. Why honesty?
“If someone’s idea was not the best,” she said, “We had to be honest and say what we thought, so the team could succeed.”
“The Y has been amazing,” Taylor noted. “We could not have asked for more.”