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Charter School Annual Cardboard Boat Race

ACLC and Nea learners launch their boats in the 17th annual Cardboard Boat Race. (Patti Wilczek)

ACLC and Nea learners launch their boats in the 17th annual Cardboard Boat Race. (Patti Wilczek)


By Bara Waters.

The most popular end-of-school-year event for the Nea and Alameda Community Learning Centers (ACLC) is the annual Cardboard Boat Race, held this year at the Emma Hood Swim Center at Alameda High School on Wednesday, May 27. This fun and exciting event is representative of the schools’ creative and project-based curricula.

The cardboard boat project tasks learners to use their knowledge of density, buoyancy, and engineering to design and construct two-person boats made only from cardboard and small amounts of tape, glue, and paint. Most are also decorated with colorful designs, names or symbols for luck, reflecting the teams’ artistic as well as engineering skills.

“This is the culminating project for ACLC’s 8th-grade Engineering Science and Nea’s 9th-grade Physics classes, said Randy Covey, Science and Math facilitator (teacher) at ACLC. “It challenges them to put together the many different concepts they’ve learned throughout the year and make it work,” Covey said.

Learner teams from ACLC and Nea competed in pool length races, vying for the coveted Gold, Silver, and Bronze Paddle Awards (1st, 2nd, and 3rd places) and other honors, including the “Golden Bulb” award for the most creative design and the “Bailing Bucket” award for the fastest sinking boat. Learners from both schools also ran the event serving as emcees, timers, record-keepers, boat launchers and providing technical support.

The annual “Jim Richards Cardboard Boat Race” has been a long-term ACLC tradition with Nea joining in recent years. This legacy engineering, physics and art project is a permanent fixture in both schools’ curriculums.

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