When most people think about the durability of cardboard, they imagine how many bottles a particular box can hold and how heavy those bottles can be. But have you ever thought how well your cardboard box can hold up when it has to get two teenagers across a swimming pool? Probably not. But a physics teacher in Longview, Texas was and left it up to her students to answer.
The teacher, Jennifer Smith, hoped to teach the students about the Archimedes’ Principle which states that in order for something to float, it must displace its own weight in the water. So a student weighing 150 lbs. must be able to displace 150 lbs. of water to stay afloat. The students are allowed to use three layers of corrugated cardboard and can only use packing tape or duct tape on the seams of the boxes to help hold it together. Once they feel the boat is seaworthy, they put it in the water, get themselves in and try to make it across the 75-foot pool in the Lobo Aquatic Center. One boat almost made it across before sinking.
Smith said that while she can teach all day in a classroom, it’s more important to get the students involved and learn things hands-on. The Lobo Regatta has been practiced for the last 15 years. This endeavor helped the students not only learn the Archimedes principle, but also the importance of teamwork to solve complex problems. The students said that they understood the principle but really enjoyed the activity because it was exciting and fun.