Soggy bottom boats

Cardboard boat competitions around North America challenge the engineering and construction skills of participants. Skills Canada is hosting a cardboard boat competition as part of the Last Splash on Aug 16

Armed with cardboard, duct tape and your wits, can you get a boat to float? That’s the challenge that Samantha Hand, executive director of Skills Canada Yukon, is issuing to Yukon youth this month. As part of programming to engage Yukoners in trades and applied skills, the organization has taken some ideas from other jurisdictions to see if Yukon kids can make cardboard float.

“Skills Canada is a national organization,” Hand said. “Skills Alberta does (the cardboard boat competition) on a huge scale throughout the year. We thought it would be a great opportunity for people to do something with their hands, like people do in the trades.” Hand notes that everything for the two, three or four-person teams is supplied. Skills Canada Yukon will supply each team with recycled cardboard (equal amounts for fairness), a supply of duct tape to put the boat together and special cutters for cardboard that have guards on them. This limits the potential for younger participants to injure themselves, though parents will still be asked to watch younger children when they are cutting up cardboard. There are only two things that parents should plan to bring for participants.

“We encourage people to bring their own life jackets, but the pool does have some in supply,” Hand said. “You have to have one to be in the boat. And a swimsuit because your boat might not float; it is cardboard!”
Skills Canada Yukon has partnered with the Last Splash event at the Canada Games Centre pool on August 16 because it seemed like the right time to risk cardboard in the pool. Hand noted that with cardboard getting wet and potentially ripping in the pool, it was a good idea to have the event right before the pool is drained anyways.
Contrary to first impressions, cardboard boats have seen success at similar competitions around North America. Hand noted that Skills Alberta regularly has boats constructed that seat multiple people and can row the full distance across a pool, so organizers hope to see some successful trips at the Last Splash. Although, there is one challenge facing the bold boaters—a lack of paddles.

“Participants have to build their own paddles,” Hand explained. “So we’ve seen people put scotch tape on their hands to make paddles, if that’s part of their plan.”
In addition to the cardboard boat race, Skills Canada Yukon will continue its programming in the fall, visiting classes, at the invitation of teachers, and providing speaking opportunities for Skills Canada graduates to share their success stories in the program.

This first cardboard boat race is a test to see if the community has an appetite to challenge themselves, but if it proves popular, Hand sees it becoming an annual event. While the registration deadline was Aug. 2, there may be a waitlist for late entries. For more information contact Skills Canada Yukon directly at 867-668-2736.

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