Five boats compete in Ledyard's first cardboard regatta

Ledyard — Interns of varying ages from the Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory and community members learned an important lesson on Sunday: Simplicity often trumps flashiness.

In the first "cardboard regatta" sponsored by Ledyard Public Libraries and hosted on Highlands Lake, high school, college and graduate students took turns setting out in their handmade, cardboard-and-duct-tape boats. They were seeking titles in agility, speed and tonnage, or their boat's ability to bear weight.

Of the five competing boats, three, some of which looked much like one would expect a canoe to look, failed to launch in their first and sometimes second attempts. Only the two widest boats, each with a flat bottom and pointed front, had few to no issues.

Michael "Q" Qin, principal investigator at the research laboratory, said the result was not surprising.

"We've been trying to promote STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in the Navy for some time," Qin said. "What we've found over the last few years is our high school students, while brilliant on the books, might lack some of the hands-on skills."

He pointed to standardized testing as one possible reason for the change.

"It's one thing to know about buoyancy, but it's another to see it in practice," Qin said. "While they're building these boats, as you can see, there are little things that they don't think of ... when it's been reduced to theory."

"I'm hoping that this is something we can continue into the future," he added.

Of the Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory interns competing, three were in high school, two were aiming for undergraduate degrees and one was a graduate student.

Competitors came from Greenwich Academy, East Lyme High School, Syosset High School, George Washington University, Rhode Island School of Design and the University of Connecticut.

One couple, Gretchen Edstrom and David Burnside, were in attendance with their dog to watch Edstrom's daughter, intern Emmy Franklin of Rhode Island School of Design, row one of the boats. It was the first time both of them had seen such a competition.

"We've gotten to know the interns all summer long, and it's been really fun," Edstrom said, explaining that she has had the group over to her house for pizza. "It's more than just an internship where you go to work. It's been a bonding thing."

Two participants, however, simply were community members — likely a result of Ledyard Public Libraries' sponsorship of the event.

The regatta is just one of several events the library group has sponsored since launching a series of "maker programs" a few months ago, Maker Program Coordinator Andrea Buka said.

From the manufacturing of beeswax-based skin cream to antique radio restoration, the programs cover a wide range of topics, so long as something is being made that involves computers, technology, carpentry and/or the arts.

But, Buka, said despite the variety, all of the events carry a similar purpose.

"We want to get adults and older teens in hands-on workshops to learn new things and to share their skills with the community," Buka said.

l.boyle@theday.com

Twitter: @LindsayABoyle

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