Bronx students to build boats at SUNY Maritime

The following is the text of a news release from the State University of New York (SUNY) Maritime College:

(THROGGS NECK, N.Y.) — The pool at SUNY Maritime College is usually full of swimmers, but later this month it will be full of boat models, designed and built through a 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant between high school and college students.

Throughout the semester, high school students from Banana Kelly High School, Holcombe L. Rucker High School of Community Research and New Explorers High School have been working to design and build the boats as a way to learn about the scientific principles that keep them afloat. Unlike a traditional science or math class, they have been taught by a group of SUNY Maritime College students on the campus by the Throggs Neck Bridge.

“When they are here, the high schoolers get a sense of college life. That may be a new experience for them that helps motivate them to complete high school,” said Linda Sturges, SUNY Maritime math professor and one of the project coordinators. “When you see our students working and sharing their knowledge with the high school students and see them learn from each other and grow, these are the 'a ha' moments of education.

“That’s what we live for as educators. It sounds like a cliche, but it’s true.”

The boat project is part of a three-year, grant-funded partnership between the Bronx schools, SUNY Maritime and the Sports and Arts in Schools Foundation, which provides extended learning opportunities to New York’s children. The program teaches students from selected high schools about science, technology, engineering and math fields, and exposes them to post-secondary education.

In addition to trips to SUNY Maritime, high school students in the program get academic tutoring, mentors, summer job opportunities and leadership development.

Several of the high school students have participated in the program each of its three years and, according to Sturges, some are learning and developing a greater interest in STEM fields. Each fall, students design and build bridges and, in the spring, they turn their attention to boats. Each time, the projects become more complex as students learn and build upon previous knowledge.

“I notice from one year to the next, the students are asking different questions,” she said. “The final fall meeting is to test the concepts of tension and torque to see if the bridge can pass a stress test. Some students were more interested in trying to make the bridge collapse, but others were looking at what failed to find out if it was a materials failure or a design failure that led the bridge to show stress.”

The project’s academic coordinator, math instructor Conrad Linton, selects eight SUNY Maritime students each term to work with the high school students. It is the maritime students’ job to design the project the students will work on and to teach the basic math, science and engineering principles they will need to complete the work. 

Though the projects center on designing, building and testing either bridges or boats, the nuances change. This spring will be the first time the students design and build boats with basic propulsion systems. The test will be a competition between the boats in the SUNY Maritime pool.

“It’s a maritime student-led program and the students learn differently from a college student than they would if it was another classroom lecture,” Sturges said. “In addition to the project, the maritime program gives the high school students a sense of college life, an opportunity to develop leadership skills and hands-on experience working on a science project.”

By Professional Mariner Staff