Boat Building Offers A Fun Lesson Using Math and Science

DHS students show the cardboard boat they built as part of their Math Club project.
Girls in the DHS math club prepare their cardboard boat for a test run in the pool
Students in the DHS math club prepare their cardboard boat for a test run in the pool. Visit the Dearborn Public Schools You-Tube page to find out how well the student designs did in the pool- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3wp6mN_f_4

Even if the boat sinks, there are valuable lessons learned along the way, students in the Dearborn High School Math and Science Club agree.

Five boats were entered in the first-ever DHS cardboard boat race this spring. Like the other activities of the Math and Science Club, building and racing the boats was a fun way to expose students to math and science in different ways than they encounter in the classroom.

“It’s important for students to be able to look at the math that they learn outside the classroom. Also, teachers have a list of things they have to teach before students graduate but there’s so much other really cool stuff that we can do that applies math and science,” notes club adviser, Math and Science Teacher Audrey Springer-Wilson. “Through the math and science club, students get different experiences and perspectives.”

Senior Maya Hamka explains, “We started the club last year because we felt there was a lack of interest in math and science at Dearborn High. It’s a really supportive and positive atmosphere. No one’s a genius here. No one judges each other. We have fun!”

The boat project was an engineering challenge. Students had to research, make a plan and diagram, measure and assemble their boats using only cardboard and duct tape. Some of them spent eight or more hours working on their boats.

“Some kids think they are bad at math and science but we put them out of their comfort zone and it turns out that they dominated at this game!” Springer-Wilson observes.

The club members are already strategizing how to improve their boats for next year’s race based on what they learned this time. For example, Springer-Wilson explains, they saw, “Lots boats flipped because the center of gravity was too high.”

Hamka notes that although none of the boats made it all the way across the pool without sinking, the project showed students can have fun while learning. “You don’t have to be ‘good’ at math and science. You just want to have to learn!”