Building a Solar-Powered Boat
A few weeks ago, a new project started at the Urban Boatbuilders workshop. Weekdays 9-11 a.m., a group of City Academy High School students come and meet with instructors Matt and Maila, who are coaching them through the design and building processes of a solar boat. They will race the boat in the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society’s annual Solar Boat Regatta.
Each boat in the Regatta has a car battery and trolling motor, which must be powered by a solar panel. The Regatta will have three events: A 100 yard drag race, a race weaving between buoys on the lake, and, finally, an hour-long endurance race during which the racers have to touch shore or switch out after every lap.
This isn’t City Academy’s first year participating in the Regatta, says science teacher Ansell Toskas, who works on the boat with his students at the shop. However, it is their first year partnering with Urban Boatbuilders to build the boat. Unlike other schools, which tend to build the solar boat in after-school programs, City Academy has opted to make it a daytime class, focused on hands-on learning. Ansell and the instructors weave in themes of environmental mindedness, as well as applied physics and mathematics, into the building process.
Ansell finds that his students are far more engaged in this than they would be in a traditional science class. On the drive back to school after the first day of the class, his students offered feedback before he even had the chance to ask for it, saying that the boatbuilding class was “way more fun” than they thought it would be. Leaving the school for an A.M. class usually poses a host of attendance issues, but according to Ansell, the excitement of building has shown an “encouraging change” in that.
The students have about 9 weeks left before the Regatta, which takes place Saturday, May 21, 2016 at Lake Riley in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Come and celebrate the students and their accomplishments!
On Wednesday, March 9, 2016, 15 excited Apprentices left the workshop in a caravan of cars driven by instructors and volunteers. Their destination: the pool Como High School. After a couple weeks of searching, staff were able to secure about an hour and a half in the pool for Apprentices to try out the watercraft they’ve spent the past few months building. Some donned swimsuits, some stayed in their street clothes, but everyone was excited to finally get in the boats.
Among the boats in attendance were a Wilderness Traveler canoe, a black-and-white racing striped kayak, and the star of the show – the stand-up paddleboard. The paddleboard is the newest of Urban Boatbuilders crafts, designed and prototyped by Instructor Collette. There was almost immediately a line of both Apprentices and staff eager to give it a try.
The energy was high in the pool room, as Apprentices practiced self-rescue techniques, played basketball, and paddled around the pool. At first glance the pool looked small, but the boats and their passengers paddled around comfortably the whole time. If they weren’t in the boats, Apprentices swam around the pool, supervised by two life guards. After an hour and a half, they loaded the boats and paddles back onto the truck, and headed back to the shop to reflect on the experience. The pool was undeniably fun, but everyone is excited for the summer when we can finally get out on the canoe’s natural habitat, Minnesota’s many local lakes and rivers!
Recently, we resurrected the Apprenticeship Blog, giving each Apprentice the opportunity to tell their story and a moment for creative expression. Once a week, an Apprentice sits down to write about their experience and take some photos to go along with their writing. Both crews are very excited to participate!
So far three Apprentices have contributed: Lawayne, Emilio, and Brandon. Below are some excerpts from their blogs, with links to read the rest. The Apprentices are so excited that they get to share their thoughts and experiences with our many supporters and stakeholders – please take some time to check out their stories!
“I like working here and sharing my skills to one another, teaching people how to do things and not being so hard on them – being a cool Youth Instructor. Sometimes it gets hard to teach others, but I keep trying and something a job gets hard to do, but you just gotta keep pushing yourself to do good.”
Read the rest of Lawayne’s blog
“One day, I was ditching class and walking the hallways, and one of administrators brought me into her office. Then she was talking to me, asking how my day was going, asking if I liked working with my hands, and she told me about Urban Boatbuilders. We called then, and within an hour Angela called back to tell me I had the job.”
Read the rest of Emilio’s blog
“When I first heard about Urban Boatbuilders, I thought that any canoe we built would sink. Then I got here, and I learned all the steps, and I knew it wouldn’t. When I first got here, I thought it was going to be boring, but then I got started on my paddle, and I found out it wasn’t boring at all. I got excited and I thought “Wow, this is going to be fun,” as soon as I started doing stuff.”
Read the rest of Brandon’s blog
Make sure to check out our Facebook page or website to catch the weekly Apprentice blogs!
Boat Joke of the Month
A boat carrying red paint crashed into a boat carrying blue paint, and the crew were marooned!