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Preparing For The Great Cardboard Boat Regatta

An annual tradition returns to Carbondale for the 43rd year.

The Great Cardboard Boat Regatta takes place on April 30th.

On a recent morning at Carbondale High School, Industrial Technologies teacher Dallas Terry prepped his class.

In the applied physics class, the students have to work a lot of problems, laws, and formulas to address force, drag, buoyancy, mechanics and more.

Like many teachers, Terry has heard that question asked by many students: "Am I ever going to use this again?"

But Terry has a plan he’s been using for the last 8 years.

It's made of cardboard, it's going into water. You know, most kids are always worried 'Is it going to float - is it going to work?' - Dallas Terry, Teacher CCHS

The applied Physics class has to take everything they learned this year and apply that knowledge to build a boat for the Annual Great Cardboard Boat Regatta.

“That’s kind of the difference between our class and maybe like a standard physics class. We're going to run the formulas and we're going to see how much volume do you need of water to be displaced to hold up the weight you're going to put in. So they total up how much the kids are actually going to weigh that are going to be inside of it, but then there actually going to live it.”

Besides learning about formulas, calculations, and problem solving, they’re also learning about their town’s traditions.

“It’s a great local event, it kind of brings the community all together, but also educates not only about buoyancy but tells them about something that’s been around our community for quite a long time.”

The rules are fairly simple as far as construction goes: It has to be made out of corrugated cardboard. You can use glue, tape, caulk, and other one-part substances to keep it together.

But the real test is can the boat make it back to shore.

“Of coarse you have the challenge: it's made of cardboard, it's going into water. You know, most kids are always worried 'Is it going to float - is it going to work?' About 90% of the time they’re going to float. The question is, are they going to be fast enough? Because speed is the key to this - you’ve got to be able to go fast to make it around the course that way the cardboard doesn’t take on too much water.”

As the three teams at Carbondale High School prepare their boats, organizers had to do their own preps.

Mary Kinsel has been helping the Alpha Chi Sigma Fraternity organize the event for the last several years.

This year, there was a decision that nature forced upon them.

“I have to tell you my anxiety level was very high all fall and early winter as we were trying to finalize a location so that the event could still take place.”

For the first time ever, the regatta won’t be at Campus Lake.

This year, it will be at the boat launch in Evergreen Park.

“The Carbondale Park District and the City of Carbondale just really stepped up and had to change some ordinances so we could actually hold an event on the reservoir because that wasn’t allowed in the past.“

Less than a month after last year’s regatta, Campus Lake was shut down because of toxic algae - and is still closed.

Kinsel says people won’t be disappointed by the new location.

“It has a lot of good viewing area, people can watch the boats really easily. There’s a lot of trees that have been cleared to improve the visibility.”

But there are some of Terry’s students that just don’t want to get wet.

“Last year I had a team of about 6 students that were 'Hey we’ll participate, we’ll do the math, we’ll figure everything out,' but they didn’t want to be in the boat. And that’s not a requirement for my class. You don’t have to be in a boat - but you do have to build a boat and you have to do some of the math to figure out the design of the boat.”

That team had a higher stake to make sure their boat works.

“They’re missing out on the fun, so that team last year actually built a boat for me to be that boat. You know there’s no harder grading than hey your teacher going to be in the boat that you built and it better not sink and it better be able to go fast.”

The regatta starts at 1 pm on Saturday April 30th and is a rain or shine event.