Students race in self-made canoes


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Photo by Edwin Gano |

Engineering juniors Ryan Findlay, left, and Sharlina Keshava, right, enjoy a canoe ride in the Werblin Recreation Center swimming pool on Busch campus.


Using cardboard, duct tape and flexible plastic, Rutgers School of Engineering students built canoes last Tuesday during the Engineers Week  “Annual Cardboard Canoe Race” in the 25-meter pool at the Werblin Recreation Center on Busch campus.

Prizes went to students with the fastest times, the most visually-appealing canoe and the best capsize. Vetri Velan, president of the Engineering Governing Council, said the event connected students and faculty.

“What the Cardboard Canoe race does is it takes something that’s pretty ridiculous on the surface, but at the core of it there’s engineering principles, there’s physics and math,” said Velan, a School of Engineering junior. “It’s really just a way for people to have fun doing engineering things ...”

With eight teams that competed, this year’s race was the largest, said Neha Desai, a School of Engineering junior and EGC member. The Engineering Governing Council organized and hosted the race.

The goal of the race was to allow students to showcase their skills in a friendly competition, Velan said. The event also highlighted the fact that engineering is about more than just mathematical equations.

“A lot of people see engineering as dry equations,” he said. “It’s not about that, it’s about dedication, and it’s about teamwork.”

Sirin Ceynak, a School of Engineering first-year student and EGC member, said the competition illustrated how engineers need to work together with limited resources and time.

Desai said students had to use concepts they learned in class to create stable canoes.

“This requires more planning than you’d normally apply during the day,” she said. “A lot of analytical skills are needed to build these canoes.”

Competitors were required to understand how to make the cardboard sturdy enough to hold people in water, she said. They had to apply concepts like stress and strain to their boats to ensure they would not fall apart in the water.

Jack Aquino, a School of Engineering first-year student, said he and his partner expected to use lessons from their physics and engineering courses to design their canoe.

“We want to make the box watertight [and] aqua-dynamic and use a minimalist design so it isn’t too complicated,” he said.

Velan said understanding how the materials would work in the water with people in them was vital to winning the race.

“You have to know about the structural support and the structural integrity of your boat,” he said. “You have to learn how to make it efficient, optimized.”

Various types of engineering are involved in building a canoe out of cardboard, he said, including mechanical, civil, industrial and chemical.

“It’s a very cross-disciplinary event,” he said.


Nikhilesh De

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