Campus & Community

Stevens Wins Silly City of Water Day Race, Displays Cardboard Kayak Engineering Prowess

On a viciously hot Saturday on Governors Island, a Stevens team emerged victorious in a fiercely contested cardboard kayak race, displaying their superior engineering and paddling skills in an amusing, exhausting, but nonetheless educational competition.

In the competition, Carrick Porter, Kristen Stilson and Jonathan Alarcon represented the Stevens Summer Research Institute (SRI), an intensive summer program for college students interested in maritime security research run by the Stevens-led Center for Secure and Resilient Maritime Commerce (CSR). The trio was joined by Porter’s father and sister.

The Stevens team beat out nine rivals in the entertaining event, in which they had two hours to design and build their racing vehicles out of only sheets of cardboard and waterproof tape. The challenge for the shipbuilders was to engineer boats that would remain afloat, even when holding the weight of two adults, and also carry enough speed to power past the any other boats that managed not to sink.

The Stevens boat, the "SS Stevens," remained buoyant and water tight throughout. With a v-shaped bow and a swept up stern, it was made out of three layers of cardboard.

"We attribute the strength of the boat to the interlocking sections of cardboard and also because of exceptional waterproofing with roll after roll of packing tape placed around the entire boat," said Porter. "Additionally we added three decks to the boat (front, rear, and one between the two paddlers) which kept water out and prevented any collapse of the sides of the boat."

The Stevens rowers nosed past a team from the U.S. Coast Guard in their initial heat to advance to the finals. There, they paddled to an easy victory over Stuyvesant High School and NYC Water Trails to take first place.  

"This event was a great opportunity to show off all of the engineering skills we have gathered and implement them into the design, construction and planning stages of the competition," said Porter. "Then to finally see our finished product launched and race against other competitors was a ton of fun." 

The cardboard kayak race was part of the City of Water Day, the largest harbor festival in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan region. The Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance (MWA) – a non-profit agency devoted to making the region’s harbors, ports and waterways cleaner and more accessible – organizes the City of Water Day throughout the five boroughs and New Jersey annually to raise awareness of the region’s waterfront areas as excellent resources for recreation, educations, transportation and jobs.

"There are so many great opportunities now - like this race - that allow people to get out and enjoy the water in fun and exciting ways," said Porter.