More than 100 Houston-area teens put their physics acumen to the test for an April 10 cardboard boat race at the University of Houston.
Teams from nine local high schools rowed their hand-made vessels across the university’s Olympic-size swimming pool in the Extreme Boating Regatta, sponsored by UH’s Houston-Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (H-LSAMP).
First place, which included a $600 prize, went to a team from South Houston High School. Teams from Kempner and Washington finished second and third, respectively. A team from the KIPP Academy won Most Unique Design.
Using only cardboard and duct tape, the students spent a few weeks applying the lessons they learned in physics class to build boats they hope are buoyant, stable and seaworthy – or at least pool-worthy.
“Students are making connections between concepts in physics and what actually happens with their boat, whether it sails or capsizes,” said Robert Dubois, a visiting assistant professor of physics at UH who directs the department’s outreach efforts.
The regatta, funded by a donation from the energy company, BP, was intended to encourage students at predominately minority and underprivileged high schools to study science and engineering. In preparation for the event, Dubois visited the participating schools to give a 90 minute crash course in physics classes on buoyancy concepts that students would need to know to build sturdy boats.
The race was just the latest outreach effort of H-LSAMP, a well-established and federally-funded program between UH and local schools to increase the number of minorities studying science and engineering. This includes recruitment, tutoring and financial assistance. Since it began 10 years ago, the number of minority undergraduates receiving science or engineering degrees from UH has risen 50 percent.