Annual JHS Boat Regatta Returns for 21st Year

Writer  /  Shannon Siders

A beloved tradition will continue this spring as students in the Computer-Aided Design and Drafting program (CADD) compete in the 21st-annual Jeffersontown High School Boat Regatta.

Victor Kustes, who was the CADD instructor at JHS, came up with the idea for the boat regatta in 1997, challenging his class to construct boats out of cardboard and duct tape. The competition has since evolved into a yearly event for CADD students that is both fun and educational.

Kustes continued to run the yearly competition until his retirement. Jason Stepp, who just so happened to be one of the student competitors in the first boat regatta, took over the CADD program last year and has kept the tradition going.

“I remember the first boat my team built,” says Stepp, who graduated from JHS in 1999. “As soon as our rower got in the boat, it just tipped him right in the water.”

That experience has given Stepp and extra appreciation and love for the competition.

“It’s really cool to think back to how bad that boat was when we were first trying to figure everything out, compared to what these kids do now,” Stepp says. “It’s been great to see what the competition has come to, the evolution that Mr. Kustes took the competition though, from just some cardboard and duct tape to make a boat, to putting restrictions on it, and sparking the students’ creativity to actually make a boat that works.”

Teams of three to four students must construct a boat made entirely of cardboard and duct tape. The boat must be assembled with supportments and a compartment large enough to hold two people, although only one student has to be in the boat for the competition.

Boats cannot exceed 14 inches in height, the bottom surface cannot exceed 30 square feet, and the final weight cannot exceed 25 pounds. Decorations are encouraged, and each team is provided with four 4×8 foot sheets of cardboard for construction.

Each class level has additional requirements, so the competition becomes increasingly challenging for students every year. Their class number also refers to the number of periods the students spend each day in the CADD classroom.

Freshmen students, who are referred to as CAD1, have the simplest design for their boats, as all sides must be flat. In CAD2, sophomore students create boats with slanted sides to add a challenging dimension to their measurements.

The CAD3 students must include geometric constraints on all sides of their boat and cut all the pieces from a CNC router. They can even earn extra credit for designing a boat with just cardboard and no duct tape.

Students began working on the project in mid-March. They had two weeks to review specifications, sketch out an idea, develop a 3D model, and generate construction drawings. From there, they had three weeks to use their construction drawings to actually draw, measure out, and cut the boat to complete their final product. All boats must pass an inspection by the senior class to be approved for the competition.

On the day of the boat regatta, each team has to row their boat across the 15-meter pool and back to get their grade. If they successfully make it back and forth and meet all of the requirements, they pass their final. If the boat sinks, they fail.

After each team receives their grade, the boats are put into a bracket to compete in head-to-head races. Jeffersontown Mayor Bill Dieruf and another special guest from the city kick things off by choosing a boat and racing each other.

The students then compete until a winner is crowned. Aside from bragging rights, the winning vessel is hung from the ceiling of the CADD department with the winners’ names on it.

The boat regatta is just one of the projects that helps Jeffersontown students gain real experience through their engineering and CADD programs. As one of 11 high schools in JCPS participating in the Academies of Louisville, Jeffersontown provides students in the CADD program with an educational experience that shifts from traditional techniques and environments to deeper learning and transition readiness for college, career, and life.

Projects like the boat regatta help prepare students for the real-world, even beyond the technical skills they acquire.

“No matter what career field they go into, they’re going to use the team building skills,” Stepp says. “That’s one of the biggest parts, because they don’t always necessarily like who they’re working with, but they have to get the job done. That’s real life.”

Adding a fun spin to the classroom also helps students learn what they are capable of doing.

“Seeing the students take something from an idea in their head to an actual product they’re out using builds their confidence for whatever career they go into,” Stepp says. “Successfully completing the project boosts their confidence in what they can do.”

As part of the CADD curriculum, students are also prepared to take tests for AutoCAD certifications, with two to three testing windows each year. AutoCAD is a popular commercial computer-aided design and drafting software application used across a wide range of industries.

“We help the students obtain industry certification that employers recognize, and we offer them work-based learning opportunities,” Stepp says.

During their senior year, students can sign out from school to go to work in an approved setting. Through this program, the students get paid for their work while receiving class credit. Jeffersontown students have gained experience as mechanical designers and CAD operators, finding entry-level employment to get their foot in the door with a company before they have graduated.

Around 80 CADD students will compete in the 2018 installation of the boat regatta on May 17 at the Plainview Swim Center (rain date May 18). The event, which is free and open to the public, kicks off at 9:30 am as the students complete the graded portion of the day, followed by head-to-head boat races at 10:30 am.

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