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Tiverton high students take boat, design talents to boat show

By   /   January 23, 2014  /   Be the first to comment

Photo by Rich Dionne Carpentry teacher Bill Phillips instructs his students while building a wooden boat during class.

Photo by Rich Dionne
Carpentry teacher Bill Phillips instructs his students while building a wooden boat during class.

TIVERTON — A group of Tiverton High School students in the boat building and engineering programs will exhibit their work alongside the pros at the Providence Boat Show on Jan. 31- Feb. 2.

Boat-building students will display the nearly complete 16-foot wooden skiff they’ve been crafting over the fall.

And engineering students will present visitors to the Tiverton High School booth with an interactive demonstration of their sailboat and hull design skills, using 3-D technology they’re learning to master and a water canal they’ve built as a kind of test track.

Tiverton’s participation came about as result of a special invitation from boat show organizers, in recognition o the students’ accomplishments and the promise they hold for marine technology in Rhode Island.

“The Tiverton students and faculty are extremely creative. They’re trying things to bring the sciences into the boating world,” said Jenn Cornwell, workforce development coordinator for the Rhode Island Marines Trades Association (RIMTA).

Ms. Cornwell’s organization bought the boat show from the Newport Exhibition Group last September, and is producing this year’s show (held at the Rhode island Convention Center) for the first time. This will be the 21st year the show has been staged in Providence.

The show in the past has attracted over 600 exhibitors and upwards of 10,000 attendees during its three-day stint.

“I want to show them off,” Ms. Cornwell said of the Tiverton students. “I’m really impressed with their engineering and boat-building program and how they work together.”

“My job,” she said, “is to get young people into the marine trades and the boat-building industry, and into training programs to fill the positions that are out there.”

The students, she said, “are excited about the projects they’ll be displaying. It’s a great way to keep them engaged. Many go into the marine trades industry.”

Praise for what Tiverton’s students are doing came from another quarter. Dirk Kramers is a Tiverton resident, and a parent whose children graduated a few years back from the high school. He’s also a boat designer, and America’s Cup veteran (who headed the engineering team that produced the AC45 catamaran, ORACLE, that won last  year’s cup competition in San Francisco.

“I’m thrilled and delighted to hear about it,” he said of Tiverton’s program and its invitation to the boat show.

His advice to the students? “Keep thinking, keep expanding, try to do something that’s never been done before. There are a lot of kids doing this stuff but it hasn’t been well publicized. It’s very good for engineering.”

Besides the group from Tiverton, students from Chariho Regional School District and Warwick Veterans Memorial High School are invited exhibitors at this year’s show.

The wooden skiff

The wooden skiff Tiverton’s boat-builders are making is flat-bottomed and glued, screwed, bolted and bent from prow to transom with marine grade plywood, oak, and northern white pine, all of it milled in the school shop.

Bill Phillips, who teaches in the construction carpentry and boat-building program at the school, said the craft will be completed in early March.

“We already have a buyer,” he said. “We’ll paint it the color he wants and he’ll pick it up.”

The boat-building class he teaches is an elective and part of the Technology Education Department, headed by Chairman Ed Fernandez.  Nearly 60 students are involved in the department’s programs.

The class has been building boats for about five years, a fact well-known to RIMTA’s boat-show organizers, who contacted the school because of its reputation.

“When the boat-building class starts in the fall,” said Mr. Phillips, “the kids are doubtful, but as the project goes along, they see it take shape and come to believe it’s really going to work. When it’s done, the kids are really proud. They believe they can do it. It’s challenging and satisfying when it’s completed. That for me is the best part.”

Alex Moniz, 17, is a junior, and one of the boat-builders this year. “It’s a good experience. I feel like he’s a great teacher,” he said of Mr. Phillips.

“Actually I love it. I love the way he shows us how to bend the wood, putting in the screws that hold the wood against wood. We have a good bunch of kids, we work together. I love the class.”

Alex said Mr. Phillips “got me into this boat-building. I’ve had him for three years. He’s taught me about electricity, woodworking. He’s a big reason for me getting my act together.”

Sophie Peterson, 16, is also in the boat-building program.

“It’s a new learning experience. It’s not something that everybody gets to do.It’s more hands-on. You learn about tools and stuff. In other classes it’s pencil and paper.”

‘The canal’

Tiverton’s engineering students will put on a show of their own at the boat show.

“We’re going to be illustrating the engineering and design of hulls, sailboats, and speedboats. It will be an interactive exhibit. We’ll be using different boat terminology and showing the physics of how a boat floats. Visitors to our exhibit will have hands-on experience, of making a sailboat and understanding how a boat operates,” said engineering teacher Zach Fenster.

The school’s engineering program complements the carpentry and boat-building program and teaches students about race cars, sailboats, robotics, electricity, bridge building and 3-D printing, Mr. Fenster said.

“We teach real life applications of engineering and design,” he said. “The kids are building a real life foundation to go into the marine trades industry. Everything I do down here allows students to think outside the box and use a different part of their brain. It’s not spoon-fed.”

The students will bring props to the show.

One will be their water trough or “canal” — a 15-foot half-section of 15-inch PVC sewer pipe mounted to a stand and filled with water.

Another prop will be a 3-D printer (bought for $2,300 with a grant from Tiverton Power and the Tiverton Educational Foundation).

Wind for their hull tests will be provided by an industrial fan at least five feet tall. Jet propulsion will come from a CO2 cartridge.

Using a 3-D printer, students and visitors learn how to design and shape hulls, miniature sailboats, and rigging, and how to test them in the sewer-pipe canal.

The goal is to move the little vessel from one end of the canal to the other using wind or jet power.

“It’s something new I wanted to try out,” said Tom McKinnon, 14. “It’s different schoolwork — more hands, not listening or writing. It’s something for the future. I’ve thought of engineering, designing building, or cars. … Most kids like being in the class because it’s more fun than most classes.”

“I like working in the CAD program, figuring out how to solve issues, the challenges he [Mr. Fenster] gives us, thinking outside the box,” said Matt Bessette,17.  “Not going directly at the challenge, but using previous lessons and solving the problems.”

“We’re making a connection between high tech and many career paths. It’s the industrial arts with modern technology,” Mr. Fenster said.

Tiverton’s programs may be on to something. Ms. Cornwell, RIMTA’s workforce coordinator, said “a large number of people are retiring  out of the  marine trades industry.”

“We’re trying to encourage younger people to go into the marine trades — electronics, composites, boat building, and HVAC.”

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