Geometry boat project sinks student confidence

Sophomore+Michelle+Padilla+cuts+a+piece+of+carboard+that+she+will+use+to+make+her+boat.

Sophia Morgan

Sophomore Michelle Padilla cuts a piece of carboard that she will use to make her boat.

The ripping sound of duct tape cuts through the soft scribbling of measurements, and scraps of cardboard litter the ground. Students are hunched over their desks and sprawled out all over the floor, frantically measuring, cutting, and assembling cardboard parts. This is the beginning of the biggest project in Carlmont geometry.

The infamous boat project is seen as a fun way for students to learn about surface area and volume during their geometry course. The project involves creating a boat only out of cardboard, duct tape, and trash bags. The boats are then raced against each other in the Carlmont pool. However, a project of this magnitude brings a lot of unseen stress and pressure to students participating. Not only is the stress of winning the race placed on students, but also keeping the boat afloat.

Many steps go into the building process of making the boat float. One of the more prominent concerns is the weight. Students are often under the impression that the heavier a person in the boat is, the more likely it will sink. Students usually jump to the conclusion that they must put the lightest person in the boat. This leads to self-image issues among students who are pressured to be in the boat and students who feel that they’re too heavy to race.

“I feel like it’s unfair that the lightest people are forced to be in the boat just because of their weight. The boat captain should be decided fairly, not just based on who’s lightest,” said Anna Passos, a freshman geometry student.

Self-image isn’t the only problematic mental issue that arises with the project. A common concern among most high school students is their grades. When a significant project comes up in class, students begin to get nervous, and stress levels rise. Because the boat project is the biggest and most well-known project at Carlmont, many students feel pressured to do well and get a good grade on the project.

“A project this important to the overall grade in the class is a lot of high stakes for students. I think a lot of students will agree that it is a lot of pressure on them to get an adequate grade,” said Hannah Bench, a senior and former geometry student.

One aspect teachers and parents may not notice the social value within it. Many teens feel the pressure to be cool in front of their peers. Not only does the success of this project contribute to their grade, but it also adds to their social cachet. The students dread the thought of embarrassing themselves in front of their peers, thus putting more pressure on completing a successful boat race.

Luckily for students, teachers are available to help and ease some of the stress at hand. While they might not be fully aware of some of the mental effects and tension created by the project, they are still there to help and offer some words of wisdom to help students along.

“I would tell students that they aren’t the first to do this project,” said Ramtin Aidi, a Carlmont geometry teacher. “Many students before them have done this and have succeeded. Don’t worry about it! I’m sure you will succeed.”