ODESSA, Texas (KMID/KPEJ)- Each year, middle school and high school students from the STEM Academy sail into summer in what has become one of the most anticipated engineering challenges of the entire school year; students are tasked with building a boat out of duct tape and cardboard that will ferry their teammates safely to the other side of the pool without sinking. 

“It’s fantastic the work they put into it, I’m talking hours- and they take it pretty serious because there’s a lot of competition and pride involved,” said Coach Terry Julian. “They work on everything from engineering to math, building techniques, teamwork, like I said, it is very competitive. They go as far as to steal tape and cardboard from each other to make their boats really good.”

“All the students gather around and create groups and then build boats and then race them,” said Sophomore Preston Miller.

“It’s a great way to sort of cap off the school year with an engineering project that makes everyone think but also have a great time, it’s awesome,” said Senior Allison Barnes.

Each year, the students seem to make their boats a little stronger and a little more durable- Preston said he’s learned a lot from past challenges and because of that, his team’s boat did not immediately sink this year, as it has in prior years. 

Preston’s bother, Hagen Miller, graduated from STEM last year, but that didn’t stop him from attending the races today to cheer his sibling on.

 “Being a returning STEM alumni of course, I’m not getting to compete in the boat races this year, but it’s really nice that they allow us to come out here especially with the younger kids, it’s important to make that connection, and help remember the school and considering this is just about the coolest event that we conduct at this school, to be able to come back for the final celebration is really fantastic,” Hagen said.

Despite the years of practice and a presumed “upper hand” at having competed in these races since middle school, Coach Jilian said the upperclassmen fell short this year. 

“Junior high won the entire thing this year, so you know, that’s gonna fly in the face of all the seniors,” Julian said.