🛶 West Potomac and Chantilly High School Students Engineer a Boatload of Fun

By The Office of Communication and Community Relations
May 24, 2023

Using only cardboard and duct tape, 26 students from West Potomac and Chantilly High Schools engineered boats and embarked on Lake Barcroft to see who could not only stay afloat, but also win a race.

For 17 years, Joe Franco and his Advanced Engineering students at West Potomac have celebrated the end of the school year with this fun, final project. This year they had a competitor, Susan Chudovan and her Advanced Technical Drawing students from Chantilly. 

“We talked about combining this event at our end of year staff picnic last year,” said Franco. “We were a bit nervous about a school rivalry, but everyone has been laughing, mingling, and enjoying themselves,” added Chudovan.

students racing on Lake Barcroft

To design their vessel, students put their knowledge from the last three to four years to the test. They used calculations for buoyancy, center of gravity, and built a 1:12 scale model (one inch equals one foot) with scotch tape and index cards to verify their calculations. Working models were also constructed in a CAD (computer-aided design) program.  

Although 13 boats entered the lake, only about a handful remained intact by the end of the race. “The competition reinforced that I love engineering but I don’t want to build boats,” said Brad, a senior from West Potomac. 

Supported by a local engineering firm, MPR Associates, Inc., students celebrated (or mourned) the end of the race by spending the rest of the day at the lake and barbecuing together. “It’s a nice way to end the school year and celebrate the students we’ve had all four years,” said Franco.

students on Lake Barcroft

“Doing something stress free after testing was a fun way to end the school year,” said Aiden, a senior from Chantilly. He and his partner Shruthika both have their sights set on engineering post-graduation. “We were the only boat that didn’t sink from Chantilly and placed third overall. I guess you could say that’s a win,” Shruthika said with a laugh.

This opportunity is made possible through FCPS’ Career and Technical Education (CTE) program. A core group of CTE courses is available in every middle and high school including Business and Information Technology, Family and Consumer Sciences, Health and Medical Sciences, Marketing, Technology and Engineering Education, and Trade and Industrial Education. 

Learn more about the CTE courses available at FCPS.

student with cardboard boat