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Physics students put buoyancy to the test

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Photo by Pat Sunderland "The Craftsman" goes down with Kory Mills and Josh Reeder aboard. The name for their boat came from the Craftsman box they used for its construction.

Using just corrugated cardboard and duct tape, science students from across Delta County demonstrated the physics of buoyancy at Bill Heddles Recreation Center last week.

The "boats" could not exceed four feet in width and eight feet in length, and they had to fit through the doorway. They were carted to the edge of the pool, where two oarsmen climbed in. If they mastered the first test -- keeping the watercraft from tipping when they got in -- they then attempted to paddle the length of the pool and back. Each team was timed. Style points were awarded for the most dramatic sinkings. Creativity was also judged, with boats sporting names such as Moby Dick, The Bomb, PHS Titanic, Gone Fishin', USS Molly Brown, Easy A+ and 50 Shades of Tape.

The key to stability, one team member explained, was adding cross supports so the sides of the boat didn't collapse. Cardboard was layered for the bottom of the boat. The duct tape not only held the assembly together, it also added strength and, in some cases, a decorative element.

Delta High School physics teacher Ben Magtutu organized the event for students from Cedaredge, Delta, Paonia and Hotchkiss. For his AP Physics I students, the cardboard boat regatta precedes a unit on force and mechanics. Buoyancy is a wonderful example of a supportive force that behaves differently under varying circumstances, Magtutu explained. It's up to the students to figure out why.

AP Physics II students just finished a unit of fluids. They were encouraged to apply Archimedes' Principle of Buoyancy as well as Newton's Third Law to improve the boats they designed as Physics I students.

Any DHS team that made it the length of the pool and back earned a text exemption -- meaning they can drop their lowest test score when grades are tallied.

Two boats sank in a dramatic fashion, after making it to the end of the pool but capsizing on the return leg. Tre Johnson and Beau Byers built "The Stringbean" and Evan and Emily Nortnik were in "Whatever Floats Your Boat."

Hotchkiss High School students Will Drbohlav, Nick Cambria, Alex Aguillera and Luke Yerion won the spirit award. They built a canoe called "The Rescue Probe." Dressed as lifeguards, their two oarsmen repeatedly attempted to get into the canoe but it kept tipping over. Magtutu recognized them for their perseverance.

The most creative boat was "The Anchor," built by Kourtney Carmichael and Jordan Hughes. Brandon Ware and Oakley Newman were recognized for the ambitious design. "Queen Anne's Revenge 2" was named after the pirate Blackbeard's flagship. The boat sported an imposing figurehead and carried a treasure chest that was surely filled with gold coins and jewels -- all made of cardboard, of course. Ware and Newman carried out the theme by wearing pirate hats and waving cutlasses.

Queen Anne's Revenge 2 tied with "Sharkbait," built by Joey Fillmore, Kaelan Hill and Mackenzie Hill for the fastest time at 1:03.

Magtutu hopes to make the regatta an annual event. He expressed his appreciation to Bill Heddles Recreation Center for waiving admission fees for the students, and to the school district for allowing the afternoon to be used for experiential learning. A video of the regatta can be viewed on the school district website, www.deltaschools.com.

Photo by Pat Sunderland “The Craftsman” goes down with Kory Mills and Josh Reeder aboard. The name for their boat came from the Craftsman box they used for its construction.
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