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Racing rats, dynamic decks and serious design

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Budding engineers have put classroom theories to the test in two hotly contested annual events, the Rat Trap Boat Race and Skateboard Design Project.

The hands-on projects are the major assessments for our first-year maritime engineering students and both took place on Friday, 2 October.

The day started with the Rat Trap Boat Race held over a 10-metre course in the model test basin. Eighty five students have been working in teams for weeks to design and build fast, intelligent vessels as part of their dynamics unit – the catch is they must be powered entirely by a rat trap.

Connor Hickey’s team settled on a twin hull catamaran design made out of balsa wood.

“We’ve done a lot of testing of the vessel, we’ve been trying to configure what gearing systems and paddle sizes will work best in the water,” he said.

“The biggest challenge was getting the boat to go 10 metres, distance was a huge thing, so we incorporated a gearing system to try and give us an advantage over the rest. It’s like the gears on a push bike, it starts off at a higher gear and then moves down to a lower gear so it’s able to accelerate throughout the course.”

He said the project had built on his experience with hand tools and wood work, as well as developing effective team work skills.

The boat race was followed by street performance testing of the Skateboard Design Project entries built as part of the materials technology unit. The students were tasked with designing a composite deck after researching current best practice.

Their designs, featuring a wooden core sandwiched between fibre reinforced epoxy resin cladding, were assessed for their strength and flexural properties before undergoing the final test.

National Centre for Maritime Engineering and Hydrodynamics Deputy Director (Students & Education) Dr Christopher Chin said the aim of the projects was to test students’ knowledge and also develop their project management skills.

“These hands-on projects provide a platform for students to apply their knowledge and skills to solve practical engineering problems. They are also good team building exercises and the students must ensure their work meets strict guidelines,” Dr Chin said.

The Rat Trap Boat Race was won by Team 13 – Thomas Kelly, Pragya Gupta, Guixin Fan, Kai Xiang Chong and Michael Connellan – with a time of 24 seconds.

(Pictured): Clodagh McKechnie, Christopher Buchanan, Connor Hickey, Brett Johnstone, Xuan Guang Zhu and Hwei Ru Lee; (Winning team): Thomas Kelly, Guixin Fan, Pragya Gupta, Kai Xiang Chong and Michael Connellan.

Published on: 05 Oct 2015