Cowichan students test boat-building skills in Cardboard Boat Race Challenge

Cardboard Boat Race Challenge held on May 22

Peter Mansfield and Kale MacMillan weren’t sure that they won the boat race for their school until the very end.

The faces of the two Grade 8 students from Quamichan School as they swept past the other teams in their home-made cardboard boat at the Cowichan Aquatic Centre on May 22 were at first determined, and then elated as they realized that they had won their heat.


Peter said the secret of success for the boat that he and his team of fellow Grade 8 students made out of cardboard and duct tape, was the design.

“We tied a rope in the middle of the boat to keep the sides from expanding outwards, and put a cardboard bench in the centre to hold the boat steady,” he said.

“It was really all common sense.”

Kale said one lesson he learned during the race was to make the cardboard paddles sturdier the next time.

“It was a lot of fun,” he said.

The team from Quamichan School was pitted against several other teams of Grade 8 students from high schools across the Valley in the second annual Cardboard Boat Race Challenge at the Cowichan Aquatic Centre on May 22.

While Mansfield’s and MacMillan’s team didn’t win the overall competition, another team from Quamichan — consisting of Jillian Desjardins, Samantha Kostamo, Stephanie Kostamo, Katie Papick and Calianne Howse — took gold in the event.


Some boats were better designed and built than others as a high percentage of them collapsed in the water even before the races began.

It’s the second year for the Cowichan Valley school district’s Challenge, and judging from the hoots and howls from the participants during the races, everyone had a lot of fun.

The Challenge pits teams of builders against one and other in a race against time and the absorbent qualities of cardboard.

School teams are challenged to construct and race a boat made of cardboard across a 25-metre swimming pool.

With a two-hour time limit to build, the newly-created boats must go fast, carry lots of weight, and, most importantly, float.

When the races were over, the boats that survived were put to a further and final test when more students were added to each of them until they sank.

“This is a fantastic event for our learners and we’re so excited to open it up to Grade 8 students,” said Robyn Gray, superintendent and CEO of the school district.

“We couldn’t wait to see these boats get in the water and have our students ask themselves, ‘Will my boat float?’”

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