Early College Projects

Cardboard Kayak


The Cardboard Kayak Project is 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 allow 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 include learning life skills as well as academic achievement. Students learn to work together in teams and to work with their hands to produce a tangible product. They learn physics, geometry, economics, and mechanics. There is a physical fitness aspect, social aspects, and environmental aspects. Students are challenged to think through problems using critical reasoning skills and work with limited resources.

Program Concept

Build Teams

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

Business Team(s)

  • There are one or more teams whose purpose is to manage the business aspects of the Cardboard Kayak Program. The Business Team(s) may consist of students from across all grade levels in EECHS. Team members will be responsible for learning business principles within the context of the Cardboard Kayak Program.
  • Business Team responsibilities include:
    • 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 is allocated Cardboard Kayak stock, initially values at $1,000 “Turtle dollars.” Stock value will be 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 will be eligible for a special drawing.

Contest Parameters

Design/Engineering Competition (1,000 points available)

  1. The boats must be built entirely by students. Instructors/mentors may demonstrate techniques and design elements, but nothing created by a non-student may be incorporated into the boats.
  2. Teams are allowed all the cardboard they can scavenge.
  3. Other recyclable materials may be incorporated, but may not be used to provide primary buoyancy (e.g., no rafts made of soda bottles).
  4. Each team will be 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 will be awarded material efficiency points based on their utilization of the above provided materials. The materials NOT used will be 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 will be 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 will participate in a race Indian Lake in Tarboro, NC.

  1. The race will start and finish in the water (not “beached”)
  2. Boats will (attempt to) complete 10 laps around the course laid out in the lake.
  3. Paddlers must be in or on the boat. Surf board style designs are not allowed. Paddlers must be nominally “dry.” No “feet in the water” or surfboard type boats.
  4. A minimum of five (5) paddlers must participate. This will necessitate “pit stops” to change paddlers.
  5. Points will be 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 will be 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

NOTE: Fines may be levied at the discretion of the Head Judge for non-compliance with the above rules.

Cardboard Kayak Races in other towns

Cardboard Kayak Technical Resources

Kayak Terminology

Paddling Techniques