Floating to the Top

Imagineering Lab puts on model ship building competition

By Liz Sheeley

Ship building is not part of the College of Engineering curriculum, but several teams of students waded into those waters last month when they built model ships and tested them in a competition on the Charles River.

Students build their ships the weekend before the competition

The College of Engineering hosted the inaugural model ship building workshop and competition during Alumni Weekend. Put on by the Singh Imagineering Lab—where students can put their engineering skills to use on extra-curricular projects—the contest drew interest from over 60 students, with nine teams competing in the final event.

The winning team shows off their boat before testing it in the water

Eleven teams competed and were judged on their ships’ weight capacity and average speed through a pre-determined course. The winning team, Kaihui Gou (ECE ’20) and Andrea Cheng (Chemistry ’20), designed the largest boat, measuring 5 feet 2 inches, that could carry the maximum cargo of 38.25 pounds.

The idea was sparked by the work of doctoral fellow Alexei Sondergeld (ME) when he began using the Imagineering Lab this past summer as a place to continue one of his life-long interests—boat building. His sophisticated and impressive designs led the assistant manager of the Imagineering Lab, graduate student Oyeniyi Oluwagbebemi (BME), to ask Sondergeld to help design the contest.

“All of the teams ended up using distinctly different designs,” says Oluwagbebemi. “Each one had the same motor, so the speed really depended on the design of the ship.”

Because ship building is a unique skill, Oluwagbebemi and Sondergeld decided to host a workshop the Friday before the contest to teach students the basics. During the workshop, Sondergeld demonstrated how to build a ship twice, once using aluminum and once using popsicle sticks and duct tape.

“The students were able to ask Alexei questions during the demonstration about how and why he was designing the ship in a certain way, and were able to get advice and learn from someone who is an expert in model ship building,” says Oluwagbebemi.

He adds that because of the success of this first competition, the Imagineering Lab wants to continue hosting this annual event for students across the university to compete.
Second place went to Kali Hamilton, Christian Medina, Tomohiru Shu and Yuya Matsuda, and third place to Siyang Zhang and Lin Fan. The first place team received $300 as a prize, second place $200 and third place $100.

The judges were Associate Dean for Administration Rich Lally, Professor Alice White (ME), Associate Professor Gregory McDaniel (ME, MSE), Research Engineer Aleksander Zosuls (ECE), and two alumni, Aidan Rose (ME’17) and James Wang (ME’17).