Engineering floats students’ boats at Jamaica HS campus

A lifeguard jumps into the pool at the Jamaica High School campus after a pair of students went overboard. Photo by Rich Bockmann
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More than two dozen teams of excited students attempted with varying degrees of success to traverse the pool at the Jamaica High School campus last week in cardboard boats held together with duct tape.

“I think it’s kind of the fun of it, the anticipati­on,” said engineering teacher Suman Sabastin, who traveled with her team from the A. Philip Randolph Campus HS in Harlem. “You’ve been testing your model and now you have the chance to see if it’s going to work. It’s not as easy as you think.”

A total of 30 teams of students built their buoyant vessels for the 8th annual Cardboard Boat Race Friday afternoon, a chance for science, technology, engineering and math students to let their hair down and show off their creative sides.

Each team of builders picked a pair of rowers to get in the two-man-sized boats paddle their way across the pool, and before the races teams gathered in the building’s gym to show off their creations.

Habib Rahman and his friends built a boat designed — aesthetically at least — on their favorite video game, “Call of Duty,” complete with a mounted cardboard machine gun. The 10th-grader admitted, though, that the firepower probably would not help much in the race.

“It’s more fun,” he said.

Last year’s winners, who went with a “Joker” theme this year, said their secret weapon was a layer of air bubbles sandwiched between two sheets of cardboard in the hull of their ship.

Others were relying on their paddling strategy to edge out the competition.

Danaella Valliant, of the Diverse Raiders, said her team spent time practicing their coordination, but said there was one thing keeping her out of the pool.

“I can’t swim,” she said.

Selena Bermeo and her friends on team Fish Tank said they were confident they had a paddling strategy down, but said it would all be for naught if they had not come up with a floatable design.

“If the boat sinks it doesn’t matter if you paddle fast,” she said.

Team Fish Tank was the first to the finish line in the race’s first heat, but their time was not fast enough to make it to the finals.

As the teams waited in the gym prior to the race, Team Shark seemed to have the most bravado as members stomped and clapped proclaiming their school No. 1.

“We ain’t done yet!” shouted Avon Hall of the original Jamaica HS, which will be phased out at the end of next year.

Harry Silva and Terriell Glenn, of the Bulldogs, came in first place, traversing the pool the fastest in the final heat.

“It feels good,” Glenn said. “We worked really hard.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Posted 8:49 pm, April 25, 2013
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