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Washington High School students take physics lesson to the pool

Union photo by Gretchen Teske

Washington High School student Emily Waite laughs as her cardboard boat sinks in the pool at the Washington YMCA on Wednesday, Jan. 8. Waite was just one of 15 members of a physics class who worked together to create cardboard boats and test them in the water. Four boats were created but only one made it to the finish.
Union photo by Gretchen Teske Washington High School student Emily Waite laughs as her cardboard boat sinks in the pool at the Washington YMCA on Wednesday, Jan. 8. Waite was just one of 15 members of a physics class who worked together to create cardboard boats and test them in the water. Four boats were created but only one made it to the finish.
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WASHINGTON — Kinsey Duwa had never paddled in a cardboard boat before Wednesday, Jan. 8, but of the other three in her class who tried, she was the only successful one.

Washington High School students in Kurt Trout’s physics class all visited the Washington YMCA to test out their knowledge by creating handmade cardboard boats. Trout said the goal was to have one student in the boat and row it from one end of the pool to the other.

Trout said this was the first year he challenged his physics students to create a cardboard boat and it was a challenge they enjoyed. He said he got the idea from the infamous Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) regatta where students have to create boats of out cardboard and duct tape and paddle them across the river.

He said the 14 students worked together in groups to create four boats and had two weeks to research, design and create. He said the project brought out the competitive side of his students as well as positive team working skills.

“Learning isn’t just memorizing and learning formulas and calculations. This is about problem solving,” he said.

Trout said getting to take the lessons outside the classroom is not always possible but when it is, he jumps at the opportunity. He said students still have the opportunity to learn in other environments and by creating a fun atmosphere they are able to enjoy what they are doing.

“A lot of learning can go on outside the classroom because that’s where life exists,” he said.

Duwa, a senior, said her group looked online and at the competitions boats when they were in the design phase. She said they noticed a lot of the boats being built in the classroom were small and narrow so her team opted for a wider boat to allow for an even weight distribution.

Once the boat was created, they wrapped the entire thing in four giant rolls of duct tape, which Duwa credits as the reason theirs was the only boat that did not sink. When it came time to put it in the water, Duwa said she was nervous but climbed in and paddled as fast as she could to make sure she made it across in case the boat fell apart.

Getting to participate in hands on learning and trying new things is the best way to learn, she said.

“That’s why physics is so fun. We do a lot of projects that correlate what we’re learning in class and so we have a lot of hands on projects. You have to learn problem solving skills and overcome things you wouldn’t have expected so through every project you see the issues ahead of you and you learn how to fix them,” she said.

Brady Knutson, a fellow senior, found his team did not do so well in the design of their boat. As soon as it was placed in the water, it began to fall part.

He said he was surprised to see it fall apart so quickly and thought it would at least make it halfway across the pool. Nevertheless, he said the project was fun and created a visual way for him to see the concepts he was learning in class.

“We’ve done a lot of projects that have been fun,” he said.