Students power up model barges in engineering challenge
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Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Braydon Metzger, 10, a student at Helen Haller Elementary in Sequim, watches as his propeller-driven watercraft laden with golf balls makes its way down a watercourse during Saturday’s fifth annual Sequim Education Foundation Engineering Challenge at the Sequim Boys & Girls Club.

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM –– Braydon Metzger spent nearly a minute standing beside a water channel inside the Sequim unit of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula winding up the twin props on his barge.

“I didn't wind it enough last time. I could've kept winding it, but I got too excited to see it go,” Braydon, a fifth-grader at Helen Haller Elementary, said before sending his barge down the channel again.

Braydon was one of nearly 100 students who built barges — some looking like they popped off the pages of a Dr. Seuss book — powered by elastic materials for the Sequim Education Foundation's fifth annual engineering challenge Saturday morning.

Students competed to see who could build the lightest barge capable of carrying the most golf balls down wooden channels built by volunteers from the foundation.

The boats

Braydon's first run had petered out just shy of the finish line.

His second, powered by diligent winding of the rubber-band-powered props, made it to the end no sweat.

“You should have seen the trials in the hot tub,” his happy mother, Jamee, said after the successful run.

Most students fashioned propeller boats that spun rubber bands.

Braydon's props fanned through the air, cutting through the atmosphere to move the boat down the course.

Others, like Vita Olson, also a Helen Haller fifth-grader, used rubber bands to propel a Mississippi riverboat-style down the canal.

“She's a very meticulous kid,” Vita's father, Taylor, said as his daughter reviewed a photograph on how best to load 160 golf balls into her barge.

Then, there were the balloonists.

Using air to push their boats along, students like sixth-grader Kyle Morton fiddled to get the exact pressure that would propel the boat but not deflate the balloon too quickly.

“The first time, I let too much air out of the balloon,” Morton said, adjusting a brass valve on his barge.

The winners

Angela Bentley took top prize in the high school division with her barge, which was colored lavender — reminiscent of the annual Sequim Lavender Weekend.

Connor Forderer won the top spot in the grade school division.

Winners of the challenge received $1,000 scholarships from the Sequim Education Foundation. Second place earned $750 and third $500.

In the high school division, Ryan Begley took second and Brendon Jack third. Vita was runner-up for the grade school class, with Isabel Frutos third.

Encourage engineering

Dick Hughes, president of the foundation since 2005, said the event was staged to encourage students to focus on math and science.

“These are the builders of tomorrow,” Hughes said while taking a break from calling the action over a public announcement system.

The education foundation holds the scholarships for students until they have graduated from high school and have been accepted to a college, Hughes said.


Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at

Last modified: February 26. 2013 6:06PM
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