Students learn physics with regatta in Folsom

30 student teams from area schools compete with boats they built and designed
By: Laura Newell, Telegraph staff writer
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The fifth annual Folsom High School Physics “Cardboard, Plywood, Whatever Regatta” was another hit for students, parents and teachers this year. Eric Wright, Folsom High School science department physics instructor, led students to the water at Negro Bar State Park in Folsom to test their crafty boats. At the regatta, 30 student teams competed with boats they designed, built and paddled. Wright said 20 of the student teams were from Folsom High School physics classes, six were from the Folsom middle schools, four were alumni teams and two teams came from Cordova High School in Rancho Cordova. Competing students said the best thing about building a boat for the competition was designing something on their own without set instructions or directions. Wright said independent design and work was a main goal with this student project to test their physics knowledge while having fun. “I believe learning needs to be hear one, see one, do one,” Wright said. “Physics really lends itself to hands on applications. The regatta is a takeoff of the ‘concrete canoe’ projects that many college civil engineering programs do every year.” Before the competition, Wright said the high school students tested the boats first in the pond behind the school and calculated the buoyant forces that their boats created. “It was so exciting for the youth to see something that started as a vision to actually become a reality,” he said. “Taking that first step into the boat, not really knowing for sure if it would sink or float, was slightly nerve-wracking for students. The look on their faces when the boats held them was pure excitement and pride. They have already achieved such a great accomplishment by creating a ‘sea worthy’ craft — all on their own.” Then, during the regatta, students were able to compete with other students confidently in the fun competitive atmosphere. The student teams raced for several divisions of awards, including Drag Race Champs, Slalom Race, Titanic Award (best sinking), Huck Finn (boat that can support most students before sinking), Best in Design and Construction, Best in Spirit and Best in Show. Engineers from Army Corp of Engineers judged the Best in Construction division. Wright said he created the project to, “encourage problem solving and promote team work, while helping students learn firsthand how fluids create buoyant forces. Most importantly though, is that it is fun.” Wright said his ultimate goal with the project is to have it continue to grow in Folsom. “One day I hope the competition has a separate Middle School division aside from the High School students,” he said. “Then the competition could be on a Saturday and we could make it a fun family day for the community.”