Ponoka Composite students not bored by card-board

By Dale Cory

It’s now official.

Ponoka should — from this point forward — be considered the … cardboard boat building capital of Alberta!

Students from Ponoka Composite High School have taken first and second place in the senior division at the Skills Canada Southern Alberta race event Nov. 24 at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) in Calgary.

This comes just one week after Ponoka’s St. Augustine School captured first, second and fourth place in the senior division at the Skills Canada Alberta Central Cardboard Boat Race in Red Deer

“This is the fifth year in row that we have won the senior cardboard boat race,” stated Dick Unruh, construction tech instructor at PCHS. “No other school is even close to matching this accomplishment.”

The gold medal winning team was made up of: Miranda Brookwell, Paul Mass, Jesse Raugust and Wouter Opsteen.

Ponoka Comp’s silver medal team included: Scott Pylypow, Kiara Kjenner, Shania Kjenner and Keane Morrow.

First-timer Mass attributes a great deal of PCHS’s success to Unruh’s skills as an instructor and life coach.

“We’ve always done really well with all of the Skills Canada competitions, such as boat racing, carpentry and cabinet making,” says Mass, who was convinced to get involved in the cardboard boat building adventure by Pylypow. “Mr. Unruh is just the best. He knows what he’s doing.”

Mass, in his senior year at PCHS, says half his year is dedicated to Skills Canada in the carpentry field. He’s currently building a 10-foot tall outhouse. At Skills Canada regionals for carpentry last year, Mass assembled 15 benches. Carpenters were only required to build a single bench.

“It was pretty much, go ahead and start working,” says Mass. “It just came naturally.”

Despite the fact Ponoka’s two entries were competing against each other for the top prize,

Mass insists the rivalry was friendly.

“When we go to boat races, it kind of brings us together as a team. We’re competing against each other, but it gets us closer as a team.”

When the competition got underway, Mass and teammates Brookwell, Raugust and Opsteen required only about 30 of the 90 minutes set aside for building their cardboard boat. While the other teams were still cutting and taping and assembling — and praying their boat would float — Ponoka’s goal-medal team took the final hour to decorate, using any left over materials, such as duct tape and packing tape to complete the water-proofing.

A quick refresher: high school students received four pieces of four-foot by four-foot cardboard, a role of packing tape, a small roll of duct tape, and 25 feet of twine. They assembled a cardboard boat with this material. After construction, each team had to paddle its boat down a 25-meter pool, after which three members of the team had to float in the boat for a minute.

Mass insists, when his team was ready for the water test, it was confident the boat would be fast in the race, and would stay above water.

“Just from looking award at everyone else’s, theirs were open, and looked so flimsy and floppy. And they just sunk,” he says. “We just thought ours was good. We didn’t cut any of the cardboard. We just folded it. We made it really strong. I got in, and just went in a straight line. I think we got the fastest time of the day.”

After the race, the team pulled its cardboard boat out of the water, and even used their T-shirts to dry the cardboard in preparation for the next phase of the competition — the 60-second float test.

“I think only three teams competed the weight competition. The rest sunk. We probably could have stayed floating for another 10 minutes. It’s the longest minute ever. You’re just sitting there thinking, ‘Don’t sink’,” said a confident Mass, 17. “Our teammate Wouter was twitching and we were like, ‘Wouter, sit down! Lay down and don’t move. I looked over the edge and the water was an inch away. We had a good 500 pounds in that cardboard boat.”

Overall, Mass has enjoyed his time at Skills Canada competitions.

“It’s fun going with people you’ve been in Skills Canada with since Grade 9,” he says. “I’ve been practicing since then. It just gets us really close.”

Mass plans to attend the University of Lethbridge to get his bachelor of science degree, after which he will look at transferring to the University of Alberta to attend medical school.

No, doubt, Mass will be able to put his cardboard boat building skills to good use at either institution.

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