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Tech Students Try To Stay Afloat At Cardboard Boat Races

Michigan Tech celebrated homecoming over the weekend.

Spectators and participants lined up on the shoreline of the Portage Canal in downtown Houghton Friday for the annual cardboard boat races as part of the festivities.


Chutes and Ladders park was the place to be as MTU students put their vessel building skills to the test.

Freshman Sarah Gustafson describes her team’s boat, “My boat was named High Rule House. We actually built it in one night out of cardboard and duct tape. We made it about one foot, and we all piled in, and then it just filled up with water. But we had a great time.”

The race is a homecoming tradition, open to all students whose teams of 8 to 12 members design and build a unique vessel constructed out of very simple materials and then race them out into the canal, around a floating marker, then back to shore with the first team back to dry land as the winner of each individual round.

Over 40 teams demonstrated some very creative concepts, as some boats were built with a make shift air chamber, increasing buoyancy. Others focused more on speed and hydrodynamics, and some were a little more traditional.

Event announcer and MTU student Alec Holm recaps the event, saying “We had a bunch of really great teams out here. Really great getting to see the event, see the racers in the water. Everybody out here did a great job. You know, everybody was a great sport. Fantastically built boats. Everybody brought in something special. All in all, I would say today was a great success.”

The rules of the build–the boats must be created using only cardboard, tape, and paint if desired.

Houghton County Sheriff’s deputies were assisted by a team of floating lifeguards in the event of an emergency.

All of the vessels made it back to shore safely.  However, not all of them successfully completed the race.

Once finished, the cardboard was carried off by the teams for recycling and completely filled two dumpsters provided by the city.

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