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Cromwell-Wright students engineer unusual boats

AJ House (right) and Shannon Taylor of Cromwell-Wright High School were tasked with making a concrete boat in an engineering and design class. Andee Erickson / Pine Journal1 / 2
David Aho, a senior at Cromwell-Wright High School, was the team leader of a group of students tasked with making a boat using steel. Andee Erickson / Pine Journal2 / 2

Two groups of students in a Cromwell-Wright High School engineering and design class each had to build a boat that floats while holding two students.

The twist? The primary material used to make the boat must summon a challenge — the weirder, the better — and those supplies shouldn't cost much.

In the past, the class has used anything from aluminum foil and plastic wrap to

cardboard and duct tape. This year, concrete and steel were the materials of choice.

"They can choose whatever they want," teacher Paul Webster said. "We want to challenge ourselves. I kind of put it out to the kids to decide."

The project requires students to exercise basic physics to help bring elements of the science curriculum into the shop, Webster said.

The class tested their boats in the shallow waters of Island Lake in the fall. Both succeeded in holding two people — sort of.

When seniors Shannon Taylor and AJ House hopped into the concrete boat they both helped build, there wasn't much freeboard above water, so House jumped out.

"It's really heavy to paddle, and it's hard to balance," Taylor said. "You have to sit right in the center, otherwise the ends go too far down."

Technically, the boat didn't sink, even with two people in it, and the group got the pizza Webster buys each team that meets the task.

The much lighter steel boat, on the other hand, skimmed across the water at what Webster said looked like a good 10 mph.

Senior David Aho helped build that boat. He said his group used basic seam welding to fold two sheets of steel into shape. Then, with the extra time, Aho made a fire-breathing dragon, also out of steel, to attach to the bow of the boat.

"You could probably pack four people in," Aho said of the boat.

Both boats are for sale to help recoup some of the costs of the projects. They had yet to be claimed as of press time.

The steel one is up for $60 and concrete one is selling for $30. Those interested can contact Webster. A notice in the Cromwell-Wright School's newsletter said: "The concrete one would be better as a flower planter."

Andee Erickson

Andee Erickson has been a reporter with the Pine Journal since November 2018. She studied journalism and geography at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, while working at the Leader-Telegram newspaper on weekends. She graduated in 2018. Erickson's from southern Minnesota, but started viewing the north as home after interning for the Duluth News Tribune in the summer of 2017.