North Participates In Cardboard Boat Challenge


The Cardboard Boat Challenge was to make a boat using only cardboard and duct tape. Whichever team’s boat completes one lap around the swimming pool the fastest wins the challenge.

Zainab Khan, Radical Reviewer

On March 6, 2020, nine students from North took part in the Project Lead The Way Cardboard Boat Challenge at Rockwood Summit where they competed with several schools around the St. Louis area to see who could make a cardboard boat big enough to carry two people to make a lap around a swimming pool the fastest.

The cardboard boat competition was held by a program, Project Lead The Way, which wants kids to practice engineering,” said sophomore Parker Cohen.  The organization works to find ways for students to engage in more STEM activities. 

The rules of the boat challenge were simple, each team must build a boat using cardboard and duct tape only. Plastic or waterproof cardboard was not allowed. The team whose boat successfully carried two passengers across the swimming pool in the least amount of time possible wins the challenge. 

“It was a lot of work,” said junior Max Evets. “Mr. Phillips put together a group, and we immediately started planning.”

Building the boat required lots of creativity and testing. The team had to test different types of cardboard to find which one would work well in the water. They also had to keep in mind the only materials they could use were cardboard and duct tape.

“We initially brainstormed ideas and looked for cardboard,” said Evets. “Then we built a prototype to see how we might structurally secure everything.”

Evets, Cohen and the rest of their team dedicated a lot of time and effort into perfecting their boat for the competition. During their meetings, they had to research boat designs, figure out what materials would work well in the water and physically build the boat out of cardboard.

“We met around two days per week for a month to work on the boat either during ac lab or after school,” said Cohen.

Part of the challenge was that the teams were given the roll of duct tape directly at the competition and had to assemble it there. Everything else for the boat had to be prepared prior to the competition. Other rules were they had to prepare a presentation for the judges to approve of their concept.

We had to make the cardboard pieces and design for the boat before the meet, and then we got a roll of duct tape at the meet to put it all together,” said Cohen.   

Judges at the competition were looking for boats that excelled in performance, design, and presentation. Evets and Cohen worked with their team to make sure they organized themselves throughout the process to ensure they were meeting this criteria. These were the things that they had to present to the judges before the actual boat race.

“We documented all of our work and created a binder of all sketches and documents,” said Evets.

The team faced many challenges along the competition as well. Since it was cardboard, it was fragile and unstable, which means the team had to position it a certain way to make sure it wouldn’t collapse.

“A challenge we faced was getting the boat in the water and getting into the boat. When we put the boat in the water, it sank right away because of the way we put in the boat,” said Cohen. “Another challenge was the duct tape because we didn’t know how much we were getting,” said Cohen.

Although the North team didn’t win against other districts, their hard work still paid off, as they still placed high for the Parkway District. In order to win the competition, the last boat in the water would receive all 40 Performance Points.

“We came first out of all of the Parkway Schools,” said Evets.