Competition Combines Physics And Fun


Samantha Grunden

Two participants, Kristen Palwan and Ivan Zubik race in their boat, "Tahiti."

Samantha Grunden, Reporter

Samantha Grunden
Boat team “The Woah” stand together for a photo, from left to right is Ann Basa, Megan McCaffrey, Adrianna Braithwaite, Jackie Koziol, and Ymani Carmichael.

Off and on for about ten years the cardboard boat races at West Springfield High School have been an engaging activity for Physics students. The activity is a week long and requires a lot of cardboard, dedication and spirit. Mrs. Grillon, the WSHS physics teacher introduced  this idea, originally for freshman conceptual physics. “Freshman would complete their science MCAS the first week of June. To maintain their interest I researched physics projects on the internet. I saw the cardboard boat regatta in my research, and I thought it looked like a blast,” stated Mrs. Grillon. Her dedication to the races, which now includes juniors and seniors, inspires many kids to work wholeheartedly on the project.

To begin, the students in her classes were required to research Archimedes Principle and buoyancy. Next, they designed a model boat and built

Samantha Grunden
Angel Diaz and Christian Castillo after winning a race in their giant boat.

a miniature prototype version. Student then tested their prototypes in tubs of water by adding weights. Based on the observations for each group, a boat was be chosen, and the students began building their full size boat.  Students were provided a large refrigerator box, two rolls of tape, scissors, and two hard cardboard tubes. From these resources, they built a boat that could hold two people while they paddled across the swimming pool in WSHS. Mrs. Grillon had to find and store large refrigerator boxes that students used to make the boats. Manny’s Appliance in Wilbraham especially helped with this task by putting aside cardboard specifically for the WSHS boat races. This year there were a total of 26 boats.


On the day of the races, classes of students gathered into the pool area. Lining the bleachers students waited for the races to begin. The room was muggy, but the excitement overcame the feeling of humidity. Cardboard boats lined the waiting room area outside of the pool. Each team had a theme from hula skirts to cheese heads. Devin Svec, a junior at WSHS in Mrs. Grillon’s physics class explained that his team thought of their theme unanimously. “Due to our shared  love of fishing, we thought of our theme, we all go fishing with one another and we enjoy it greatly,” stated Svec. As the races began, kids played music on waterproof speakers and cheered for their favorite teams. The winners of the best theme contest was team Phat Rat, who decorated their boat as a giant rat and wore cardboard cheese hats. Another team, nam

Samantha Grunden
Keegan Kearney and Nick Pardave after sinking their boat.

ed the S.S. Maine, won for the best sinking. When the boat hit the water, it fell apart.


Mrs. Grillon explained how much fun this activity can bring to students. Students like Svec enjoyed participating in the races. “I loved this activity, it was a blast and made us have a healthy competition with one another,” stated Devin Svec. Some students’ boats flipped over and filled with water, and then they tipped the water out and got back in to continue paddling. “It is one of my favorite activities because it brings out each student’s individuality, creativity, stick-to-itiveness, and ability to work with others,” Mrs. Grillon explained, “I feel like I get to know my students so much better during the process. It’s a way to share with students that learning is very joyful!”