Cardboard chariots charge ahead

·2 min read

A group of junior and senior students from Wheatland Crossing School practiced their Ben-Hur impressions and engineering skills by engaging in a competition where they built and raced cardboard chariots.

The competition was orchestrated by Skills Canada Alberta, a non-profit that promotes careers in skilled trades and technology. Each year, the organization runs a cardboard boat race as a chance for students across the province to get together to practice their engineering skills and to compete.

Because of COVID-19, this year the competition took a different approach. Instead of an in-person boat race, the students competed remotely by constructing and racing cardboard chariots, explained teacher Mark McKeen at Wheatland Crossing School.

The students were tasked with building a chariot from a standard set of materials including cardboard, duct tape, and “a few other odds and ends,” including a skipping rope for reins. Each chariot had to have five sides (four sides and a bottom) and be able to carry a person. The biggest challenge was incorporating wheels into the design. Among the senior high division, teams had to create and construct their own wheels.

Once the chariots were constructed, each student team raced them, with one student “driving” while another student pulled, to determine which team had the fastest chariot and which design worked best, McKeen explained. The competition was judged online and there were daily medalists for each race in each category (juniors and seniors).

Wheatland Crossing’s senior division team, composed of Jenna Milton, Lily Flebotte, Kaysia Penney and Lukas Krasniuk, received a silver medal for finishing second out of seven competing teams.

The two junior division teams from Wheatland Crossing smashed the competition against 30 other teams by winning first and second place. The team consisting of Ava Fladhamer, Everett Thompson, Belva Kaiser and Kadalynn Fingler won gold, while Benjamin Van Dresar, Mitchell Brassard, Quinto Mavor and Luke Nelson together won silver.

All the chariots made it across the finish line.

“Though not all of them had wheels or working axles by the end,” said McKeen. “They did all make it across, and we had some good crashes too.”

The competition gave the students a chance to lead a project on their own.

“They get to engage in actually taking their own ideas and thoughts and approaches to things, and seeing them come to light over the course of a week or two,” noted McKeen. “In the end, you start to see students, especially junior high kids, trying something new. And with that comes a lot of confidence and accomplishment.”

Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times