Early College Project

Cardboard Kayak


The Cardboard Kayak Project was a joint effort between Edgecombe Community College and Edgecombe Early College High School to provide a vehicle for learning and character development. Five teams, representing each of the grade levels in the Early College, designed, built, tested, and raced a small watercraft during the 2010 – 2011 school year.

While the rules of the contest allowed certain adhesives, sealants, and tapes, the structure of the boats were constructed entirely of corrugated cardboard. The boats were judged on the basis of the engineering/design aspects, artistic merit, and performance during a regatta in April 2011.


The primary objectives of this project included learning life skills as well as academic achievement. Students learned to work together in teams and to work with their hands to produce a tangible product. They learned physics, geometry, economics, and mechanics. There were physical fitness, social, and environmental aspects. Students were challenged to think through problems using critical reasoning skills and work with limited resources.

Program Concept

Build Teams

  • There were five Build Teams, one from each EECHS grade level (Boat House). These teams were responsible for learning design concepts and fabrication methods, and designing, building, testing, and racing the boats. Instruction was provided by EECHS staff, ECC Sustainability Coordinator, and others as appropriate.
  • One or more representatives from each Build Team made a formal presentation to a panel of judges as part of the Design, Engineering, and Artistic competitions.
  • Membership and participation on the Build Teams could rotate; however, each team was strongly encouraged to establish and manage a core group of committed individuals who provided continuity to the teams and ensured successful completion of the project.

Business Team(s)

  • There were one or more teams whose purpose was to manage the business aspects of the Cardboard Kayak Program. The Business Team(s) consisted of students from across all grade levels in EECHS. Team members were responsible for learning business principles within the context of the Cardboard Kayak Program.
  • Business Team responsibilities included:
    • Distribution and monitoring allotted materials to the Build Teams
    • Managing the Cardboard Kayak Stock Market
    • Assisting with the Design Presentation and Performance Competition events
    • Promoting the Performance Competition event and associated activities

Cardboard Kayak Stock Market

To encourage broad participation in the Cardboard Kayak Program, each EECHS student was allocated Cardboard Kayak stock, initially valued at $1,000 “Turtle dollars.” Stock value was adjusted on the basis of participation in the project, achievement of established goals, and general conduct throughout the project. The team with the highest stock value at the conclusion of the competition was eligible for a special drawing.

Contest Parameters

Design/Engineering Competition (1,000 points available)

  1. The boats were built entirely by students. Instructors/mentors could demonstrate techniques and design elements, but nothing created by a non-student could be incorporated into the boats.
  2. Teams were allowed all the cardboard they can scavenge.
  3. Other recyclable materials could be incorporated, but could not be used to provide primary buoyancy (e.g., no rafts made of soda bottles).
  4. Each team was provided with the following;
    • One double-blade paddle or two single blade paddles,
    • Personal flotation devices (a.k.a. PFDs, life vests) for each paddler,
    • Box cutters, measuring tools, spline rollers, straightedge, brushes, and
    • Materials (targeted to be sufficient to make two boats)
      Material Quantity Point Value
      Drywall tape (non-sticky) 2 rolls 400
      Glue or contact cement 3 qts 800
      Sealant or water proofing compound 1 gal 800
      Total 2,000
  5. Teams were awarded material efficiency points based on their utilization of the above provided materials. The materials NOT used were measured and their remaining point value calculated, with a maximum award of 1,000 points per team.

Artistic Competition (1,000 points available)

Each boat was judged on the following criteria:

  • Originality/creativity (200 pts.)
  • Craftsmanship/quality of product (200 pts.)
  • Use of materials/composition (200 Pts.)
  • Form (200 pts.)
  • Other visual appeal (200 pts.)

Performance Competition (1,000 points available)

Each boat participated in a race on Indian Lake in Tarboro, NC.

  1. The race began and ended in the water (not “beached”)
  2. Boats completed 10 laps around the course laid out in the lake.
  3. Paddlers had to be in or on the boat. Surfboard style designs were not allowed. Paddlers had to be nominally “dry.” No “feet in the water” or surfboard type boats.
  4. A minimum of five (5) paddlers had to participate. This necessitated “pit stops” to change paddlers.
  5. Points were awarded as follows:
    • Each lap completed (80 pts./lap for a max of 800 pts.)
    • First Place: 200 pts.
    • Second Place: 100 pts.
    • Third Place: 50 pts.

Overall Winner (3,000 points available)

Point totals from each of the above sub-competitions were added to determine an overall winner:

Category Total Points Available
Design/Engineering 1,000 pts.
Artistic 1,000 pts.
Performance 1,000 pts.
Overall 3,000 pts