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Elsa High School Airboat Design Challenge!

This week saw the return of the Elsa High School Design Challenge! Here was the brief in full: 

Step into the shoes of real-life heroes in this Design Challenge centered around disaster relief operations! A devastating flood has left an entire community stranded, with no means of transportation. Your task is to design and construct an airboat capable of navigating through floodwaters, debris-filled streets, and reaching isolated areas to provide essential supplies and rescue stranded individuals. Are you ready to make a difference and be part of a life- saving mission?

Get ready to engineer innovative airboats that will restore hope and save lives in times of disaster! In this challenge, you will create a First Person View (FPV) remote control airboat using only reused packaging materials as the building material. This eco-friendly approach not only demonstrates your engineering skills but also promotes sustainability by repurposing materials.

Your airboat will be capable of navigating a treacherous obstacle course, made up of land and water! It will also be instrumental in delivering aid packages, rescuing stranded individuals, and ensuring their safe passage to security. Let your creativity and resourcefulness shine as you embark on this mission of compassion and environmental responsibility!

Student Reflections:

Coming into this year's Design Challenge, I did not know what to expect. When it was revealed that we were meant to build an Airboat, I was surprised. I expected it to be difficult: how were we going to be able to build a vehicle that goes both on water and on land and can transition between them? Thankfully, we were provided with a starting kit, which we could then build upon. 

My Team and I divided into two initial roles, one group working on the Product Pitch and one team working on the Airboat. At the start, when we just had to build the kit, we split off into teams. However on the second day we all worked on building the airboat and contributing all of our ideas to create the team's Airboat. Some challenges with my team specifically was the weight of the Airboat. Our Airboat has an elongated front and pontoons on the side, like a catamaran. However, due to the use of lots of material, our Airboat was significantly heavier than other team's airboats. We changed and modified our airboat to have a slicker bottom and removed unnecessary weight from the front of the boat to counteract this conundrum. 

My Highlight of the week so far has been seeing our work culminate into a final product. Seeing our airboat being able to slip and slide on the track and float on water has been amazing. With all projects, seeing your vision finally come to life is an amazing feeling.

Peter, Grade 9

An atmosphere of immense excitement and anticipation led up to the Design Challenge, and it only continued throughout the whole experience! My initial reaction to the Design Challenge brief was nervousness but excitement as I’d never heard of what we were making or its incredible purposes. The challenge was to create an airboat that could skim above the water and pass through debris and other obstacles. We were given a starter kit that gave us a base for our design, but the details and design were entirely designed by the students. 

We faced several challenges throughout the creation process, including our boat's design being too heavy or our presentation and pitch not being detailed enough. Our group took time to communicate and adequately assign roles to solve all of our problems, which helped us create a boat that we were proud of and brought us all closer together as a team. My personal highlight of the week was the first test of our boat, as the suspense and slight worry only made the boat's success in being able to move all the more exciting.

Lili, Grade 10

What were your first reactions to the Design Challenge brief? 
This is the first time I’ve ever taken part in a Design Challenge. I was quite excited to collaborate with students across grades to learn about each other's strengths and interests. I think I was anticipating the end of the challenge, just to see how well we could do in the challenge.

How did your team go about starting the initial process? How did you divide your team’s roles?
Initially, we were all a little bit dumbfounded, since no one had a clue about Airboats. However, through discussing we figured out everyone’s strengths. I researched about the boat, and made a couple of sketches with my teammate, and we gave them to the others to build. Overall, we had a great balance between the building, researching and presenting part of the project. 

What were some of the challenges your team faced at the beginning of the week? How did you overcome the challenges? 
My team was really rooting for a large number of cards through the Mini Challenges, but we didn’t do so well in the first round. In fact, we had a specific layout for the bottom of our boat, but didn’t have enough cards to purchase the inflatable plastic. We even lost a few valuable cards while trading them with other teams. To overcome this, we started keeping a tally of the minimum cards we’d need for tweaks and changes, and studied even harder for the next two rounds of the Mini Challenges. We earned more cards in both the rounds, and could buy all our “upgrades” with ease. 

What was the highlight of the week?
I was eagerly anticipating the end of the challenge to see how we overcame it. I think it’s safe to say that my biggest highlight was seeing the finished product. I wasn’t as participative in the building, as I was mainly in charge of the pitch as well as research and studying for the Mini Challenges. I didn’t pay as much attention to the building, but was always pleasantly surprised when I saw the progress every few hours. When the final Airboat was brought inside the auditorium, freshly coated in spray paint, I felt nothing but pride. My team had really pulled it off! 

Trisha, Grade 9

What were your first reactions to the Design Challenge brief?
I was really excited and eager to participate in the challenge and push myself and think outside of the box. 

How did your team go about starting the initial process? How did you divide your team’s roles?
My team and I split the tasks and made sure everyone was working and busy with their provided tasks. We all pushed ourselves to do our best and be the best out of the 20 other teams we were competing against.

What were some of the challenges your team faced at the beginning of the week? How did you overcome the challenges? 
The challenges we faced in the beginning was how we should make our airboat since everyone had their unique ideas and we were contemplating about which would be the best for us with the limited resources and time we have. 

What was the highlight of the week?
The highlight of the week for me was the second day of our build and testing day. I was really excited and nervous about testing our airboat for the first time but it turned out way better than we expected and even others! We were the fastest on track and the only one that managed to get over the pond.

Cedric, Grade 9

What were your first reactions to the Design Challenge brief? 
When I first heard about the Design Challenge brief, which turned out to be about an airboat rather than an RC car as I initially assumed, because of the track outside the football field, I was surprised and excited because of the team with whom I was going to be working. 

How did your team go about starting the initial process? How did you divide your team’s roles?
When we were assigned to our teams, the first thing we did was introduce ourselves and get to know each other better. Knowing that we would be collaborating for the next three days, I took the initiative as the oldest student amongst us to organise the team. For example, I asked for each team member's preferences and talents and assigned roles accordingly. This allowed us to establish clear responsibilities and ensured that each team member could contribute effectively based on their strengths. Through this, we set a strong start for effective teamwork and hopefully a successful outcome.

Ethan, Grade 10