Students considering careers based in skilled trades and technology kept their ambitions afloat with a competition that recently made its way south of London for the first time.
Skills Ontario introduced the annual Cardboard Boat Races to Leamington last week, drawing precisely 100 high school students from school boards in Windsor-Essex, Chatham-Kent and Niagara to the Leamington Kinsmen Recreation Complex. There, teams of four represented their schools in a challenge where they built vessels of cardboard and duct tape that were put through their paces via a 25-metre race and weight capacity testing.
The gathering of 24 teams included two entries from Cardinal Carter Catholic Secondary School. The two Cougar quartets were amid the youngest in attendance, as both were made up entirely of Grade 9 students. The secondary school division of the Cardboard Boat Races is open to pupils from Grades 9 to 12 while the elementary school version — not yet available in the Essex-Kent-Lambton region — is available to entries in Grades 7 and 8.
Cardinal Carter was represented by Team 2 — Brayden Bergeron, Shelby Farkas, Laura Kostwinder and Jordan McManus — while Team 14 was made up of cousins Cade and Cameron Lussier as well as Johnathan Raffoul and Jaydon Tannous. The school-based teams came from schools representing the Windsor Essex Catholic District School Board, Greater Essex County District School Board and Niagara District School Board. Four of these schools also submitted Video Challenge teams — duos that recorded and edited the boat construction and competition processes.
The unique Skills Ontario event has taken place yearly for more than 20 years, but until 2017, had never hosted a regional version of the Cardboard Boat Races closer to the Leamington area than London. Most meets are capable of hosting a maximum of 30 to 38 teams, depending on the host venue’s size.
“First-time locations normally start out slow, but 23 teams right off the bat is great,” explained Skills Ontario local liaison officer Kayla Schurman during the boat construction stage, noting that a 24th team withdrew from the Leamington-based competition prior to its Tuesday, Nov. 28 date. “With new teams at a new location, they’re doing really well for never having seen this event before.”
For both elementary and secondary school competitions, teams are given two 4’ x 8’ sheets of corrugated cardboard, two rolls of duct tape and two hours to create their boats. Many teams, including Cardinal Carters’, made and tested prototypes in the days prior to going head-to-head with other participating schools. Following the building process and a lunch break, teams brought their creations from the LKRC’s gymnasium to its pool for single-length races and weight testing.
Teams chose between placing one or two members in their boats for the 25 metre races, with four entries entering the water simultaneously. Immediately afterwards and at the other end of the pool, teams were given a minute to keep their vessels afloat with one member on board. Prior to construction, each team member was weighed for judges to calculate how many pounds the boats could hold. After the first minute — for boats that had not yet sank — a second teammate entered the finished product to be timed for another 60 seconds. The Lussier-Lussier-Raffoul-Tannous team kept three of the four members above the surface for the full minute to submit a combined weight of 372 pounds — one of the top entries of the day in that category. The same team clocked a race time of 28.5 seconds. The Bergeron-Farkas-Kostwinder-McManus team registered a weight of 162 pounds and a race time of 31.78 seconds.
Also calculated into the scoring process was the time recorded for the race, construction quality, planning and design, safety and cleanliness, teamwork and team spirit, visual appeal and skilled trade career knowledge. Teachers were allowed to observe from the sidelines, but could not contribute verbally or with assistance in construction.
At the secondary school level, Leamington served as the host of one of six regional events, where the top three teams will advance to the provincial championships in Waterloo March 8. The two teams from Eden High School in St. Catharines finished one-two with 98 and 83.25 points out of a possible 100. Team #14 of Cardinal Carter finished third as the event’s most successful Windsor-Essex County entry with an even 70 points, half a point more than one of the two Assumption groups. The Cougars’ #2 team also finished in the top 10 — in eighth place — with 61.5 points.
In the competition’s history of more than two decades, the current elementary school weight record is 1,411 pounds while the race time standard sits at 15.03 seconds. The high school weight record is 1,381 pounds. The latter group’s race record was set a year earlier at 10.73 seconds.
Skills Ontario was established in 1989 to promote education in skilled trades and technologies across the province. Locally, Schurman represents the organization from an office space provided by St. Clair College’s main site in Windsor.