Students river race in homemade boats

BUCKHANNON – Twenty-eight boats constructed of card board and duct tape by Upshur County middle school students were put to the test Wednesday.

The challenge began in January when Vicki Sharp’s advanced studies class in grades 6, 7 and 8 at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School began engineering and testing models of their boats. All their hard work and preparation led them to Wood Street in Buckhannon Wednesday to see if their designs and engineering could keep them afloat on the Buckhannon River.

“They (students) learn how to engineer successfully,” Carter Glover, a student racer, said.

Leading up to the event, students had to test scale models in a wash tub and apply weights to them to see if they could float.

“This is a fabulous project for the kids to do,” Marty Kelley, a business owner and judge of the race, said. “It’s wonderful for the


The race is the third annual for B-UMS, only this year students not only were tasked with creating the boats, but Sharp said they also were expected to make their own oars. Some boats made the loop around the rescue team in the middle of the river, but others started sinking almost as soon as they started.

“(I thought) it’d be OK,” Jacob Riggleman, a contestant whose boat sank in the river, said. “We weren’t worried. It was really fun. We had a good time.”

Sharp said she hopes the event will be hosted at Stonewall Resort next year and perhaps even include other schools. Although the engineering project was part of her advanced studies class, the students were allowed to involve teammates from outside the classroom to participate. The team sizes were a minimum of one and a maximum of four.

The students were judged on various categories like their use of materials, construction, team participation and how long it took the boat to do a lap around the dive team and back to shore. Many awards were assigned based on those factors, although the awards were not announced to the students on Wednesday. Sharp said students will find out the results of the race today.

A team called “Banana Boat” won best of show, first place, the team spirit award and most creative theme award. Team members Drew Griffith and James Sceley dressed up as chimpanzees and carried bananas with them. They tossed the bananas into the audience when they finished their lap in 57 seconds.

The second place winner was “New Titanic,” by Quest Babcock, and the third place winner was “Looney Tunes,” by Breanna Morgan. Morgan also won an award for most creative boat.

The best constructed boat award went to “Yolo Swag.” Team Draduck was awarded most unusual for their boat, their attempt to make a dragon that instead turned out to look somewhat like a duck.

They wore pointed hats in the boat, which members of the audience commented made them look like vikings.

The team paddling in “Man O’ War” were awarded the Titanic award for “most graceful sinking.” The most unusual boat award went to “S.S.


A team of engineers judged the boats on their construction, including Buckhannon City Engineer Jay Hollen and industrial engineer Mark Hays, who is a manufacturing manager at Corhart Refractories. Other judges also participated, including Kelley, who is a business owner, Teresa Kee, an auctioneer, and Jody Light, the lead judge. Tiffany Ross, a student from Buckhannon-Upshur High School, also helped as the judges’ tabulator.

Sharp said many businesses and individuals contributed materials or money toward the boat project. They include Ralph’s Furniture, Sears, Jack’s Furniture and the administrators of Upshur County schools.

The Upshur County EMS and Buckhannon Fire Department were on standby in case of an emergency. The BFD sent divers out on a boat to be ready for any potential emergencies. A former Swift Water Rescue team member, Mike Cunningham, said the entire event went off without any harm to the students.

“The boats are getting better every year,” Cunningham said.