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Recycled materials become sailboat regatta at Wauwatosa STEM

Ryan Westpahl (left) and David Miller propel their team's sailboat along the race trough as one of the activities during the Wauwatosa STEM School’s Recycling Regatta on May 16. Teams created sailboat to race using material recycled from other products.

Ryan Westpahl (left) and David Miller propel their team's sailboat along the race trough as one of the activities during the Wauwatosa STEM School’s Recycling Regatta on May 16. Teams created sailboat to race using material recycled from other products. Photo By C.T. Kruger

May 20, 2014

WSTEM students crafted homemade sailboats from recyclable materials to race them in a studentwide sailing regatta last Friday.

Parent volunteers helped execute the regatta, which served as an in-school fundraiser. It also challenged students to apply engineering principles while building a sailboat as a team, composed of kindergartners through fifth-graders.

"Seaworthy" boats must have been built with one of the specified materials, including juice boxes, water bottles, soda bottles, Popsicle sticks, straws, index cards, small chip bags and more. Students used straws to blow wind into their ship's sails and raced them in rain gutters filled with water.

In addition to the regatta, student teams learned nautical knot tying, competed in the sailor relay and played sailing bingo.

Creating sailboats served as an easy way to practice the engineering design process, which follows the "Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, Improve" format, said teacher Maggie DeTrempe.

It also inspired real-world application. Wendy Schmidt, physical education teacher and former sailing instructor, set up an Optimist Dinghy, a sailboat suitable for sailors between 7 and 12 years old, in the gymnasium. Students took photographs next to the Optimist Dinghy with their sailing team. Schmidt and her family sail competitively.

"This regatta is just heightening the excitement of sailing as another sport," said Schmidt. "This is a great age for teaching kids sailing because they're just sponges."

More on sailing

"Learn to sail" training takes place every year at Okauchee Lake Sailing School. Camps are available for seven to 12-year-olds as early as June 16. Visit www.okaucheesailing.com.

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