Student representatives from eight area school districts used their knowledge in a variety of subjects as they set sail on the first Oswego County Academic Youth League competition of the school year Thursday at the Fulton War Memorial.
Using a list of materials to construct a boat, the team from Hannibal took home first place as it edged out second-place finisher Sandy Creek and bronze medalist Pulaski.
Other participating schools included Altmar-Parish-Williamstown, Fulton, Mexico, Oswego and Central Square.
Each team sorted through a “boat box” containing a variety of items to be utilized to help propel their boats across Lake Neatahwanta as part of the Freedom Float challenge.
“We’re trying to do the best we can in the time we have,” said Mexico team member Sydney Ryan as she and her teammates sifted through their materials.
Items included foil, cardboard, duct tape, rubber bands, wood, Popsicle sticks, glue, vinegar, baking soda, dowels, balloons, hoses, a mousetrap, plastic bags, straws, sheet metal and a candle, with each team developing their own unique spin on the project.
Some used plastic bags as sails, while more extreme ideas also emerged, as Hannibal team members propelled their boat by winding a rubber band attached to a mousetrap on the back and having it function as a water wheel paddle.
Even the look of each boat varied, with some teams opting for a flat-bottom design while others used a pontoon boat look by cutting a water bottle in half as the base.
For some, the main structure was made of cardboard covered in foil, while others had Popsicle sticks as the base.
Regardless of how the boat was constructed, each was required to be able to carry a “small animal,” which in this case was a Beanie Baby.
Although the lake’s current stifled the distance that the boats were able to travel, students were also judged in other subject areas.
Each team was required to write and perform a folklore story about why the animal wanted to go to sea, solve a variety of nautical-themed math problems and write a nonverbal signaling code, which would be applicable to ship-to-ship communication in a pre-radio transmission era.
“It’s amazing what these kids come up with,” said Sue Ryan, coach of Fulton’s G. Ray Bodley High School team. “They love to come and participate. They learn a little bit of everything in each challenge. A little bit of science, a little math, a little engineering and communication skills. There’s a lot going on. This is a really great experience and many of the kids say that it’s the best thing they do.”
Sandy Creek team member Maggie King noted the importance of the OCAY League as an outlet celebrating scholarly achievement.
“It’s pretty cool that you can compete academically and not just in sports,” King said.
The OCAY League was organized in the spring of 1997 with the idea that academics merit a standing comparable to athletics.
Students’ academic skills are challenged and showcased in a wide variety of competitive events that emphasize scholastic excellence, team building, leadership and creativity.
A particular strength of the league is its emphasis on cooperative problem solving.