KING’S Ely welcomed students and staff from Lynn Grove Academy in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, for the school’s annual Recycled Raft Race.

This year’s event took place on June 25th and, as ever, was organised by King’s Ely Senior’s Physics and Design Technology Departments.

The event is a day long competition to design, construct, test and ultimately race a model boat made of recycled materials from one side of the King’s Ely swimming pool to the other. Unlike previous years, the sheer numbers of rafts involved in this year’s competition required every boat to proceed through a heat before racing in one of two finals.

A total of 72 Year 9 students from King’s Ely competed in this year’s race.

The day began with a quick briefing from Head of Science at King’s Ely, Mr Kittoe, on the nature of the task. The iterative design process, the problems with floating, sinking and stability, the issues surrounding the provision of enough energy to make the crossing and finally the business of directing that energy with appropriate force(s) were all discussed.

The students left the discussion and demonstration buoyant, and ready to begin their own design process. The next three periods became a whirl of activity with students constructing, testing and reconstructing their boats numerous times. Five King’s Ely laboratories and three DT workshops were all systematically deconstructed by their occupants in bids to produce their fastest craft.

The racing took place after lunch and four prizes were awarded: The fastest craft, the most ambitious design, the best craftsmanship and the most creative use of materials.

The fastest craft was Team HMS and was created from a broken quad drone mounted on top of a flexible raft of PET bottles to maintain stability in all conditions. The drone had been carefully angled to enable the craft to trim at a suitable angle, and it was powered by batteries and steered by remote control. Attention had been paid to direct the airflow over the craft to maximise thrust.

The most ambitious design was Team Big Back using solar panels, electric motors and, unusually, the only sail in the competition. This was all mounted on a specially shaped expanded polystyrene hull. The design was certainly ambitious given the breathless and hot weather without a cloud in the sky! In any event, Big Back just made it through the first round of the competition only to miss the final on account of the team taking too much time in redesigning and enlarging the triangular sail and mast. Big Back’s sad tale shows the importance of meeting deadlines, no matter how ambitious your project.

The best craftsmanship was shown by Team Tupen. Although only constructed from PET bottles, they had been carefully cut so that PET bottle towers fitted neatly into a PET bottled trimaran hull. Sitting on top of the towers were twin photo-voltaic panels supplying dc motor-powered twin airscrews. The craft was kept straight with the use of an extended rudder mounted on a bamboo cane.

The most creative use of materials was won by one of the teams from Great Yarmouth, Team Deadweight. This craft was assembled from a mixture of MDF and plywood, and had a tough, streamlined bow made from parts of a PET bottle. It was powered by a number of AA batteries driving a dc electrical motor which, most ingeniously drove two paddle wheels connected to the motor with pulleys made from elastic bands and cotton reels.

Following the competition, students were required to reflect on their experience. Many commented on the complex nature of what had seemed initially like a fairly straightforward task. Groups of friends had enjoyed the teamwork, and the ability to press some of their Year 9 Physics into practical use. Students ended the day feeling challenged but happy and fulfilled.

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