Almost five years ago, this newspaper ran an article about engineering students from NYU Polytechnic in Downtown Brooklyn taking part in a national concrete-canoe contest.
Now, at the other end of the durability scale, some engineering students at an equally prestigious Brooklyn school – Brooklyn Technical High School – will be holding a cardboard-canoe contest this Friday, March 1, in their pool.
Just as most people would think that concrete would sink immediately, most people would also think that cardboard would get wet, soggy and unusable very fast. But overcoming such obstacles is part of the challenge of being an engineer.
In the Brooklyn Tech contest, according to Nicole Cuella, assistant principal of engineering, some 52 teams of up to five students each will take part in the contest. Though that sounds like a lot of students, the school has a student body of 5,500.
Even though the entire team will help design each boat, only one student will navigate the boat, she added, with the others watching. The boats will be paddled—there will be no motor power.
The only materials allowed in the boats’ construction will be “regular corrugated cardboard” and duct tape. Three or four boats will go into the water at a time.
Students work on the boats after class, under the direction of their club advisors, and store them in shop rooms and other large spaces.
“I started the event last year,” says Cuellla. “I used to be chair of Engineers Week as an undergrad and a grad student at Cooper Union. It’s celebrated at colleges and engineering firms, and I wanted to start it here.”
The event is co-sponsored by the National Society of Black Engineers and the Brooklyn Tech Alumni Foundation.