Cardboard boat

Five students in Dramatic Results’ ABC Program race a cardboard boat they created using Design Thinking.

Dramatic Results aims to help students foster a lifelong love of learning with the Summer STEAM Institute, instructors say.

And this summer, it included cardboard sailboats.

This one-week program allowed students to work with STEAM professionals to design, build, and test their cardboard sailboats. The goal of the hands-on project is for students to design, build, and test their cardboard sailboats to meet the needs of a fictional client.

Each group of 12-26 students receives one week (40 hours) of learning during the program. According to Jennifer Franka, director of marketing at Dramatic Results, students are grouped by age and school.

For example, middle school students were grouped together, she said.

“Students going into the same middle school are placed together, which allows them to bond with their peers (GATE/EXCEL incoming sixth graders) prior to transitioning into middle school,” Franka said.

Students use a technique called Design Thinking to ideate, prototype, and create their own cardboard boats. Boats are raced on the last day of the program, she said.

Students use mathematic concepts to calculate volume, units of measure, conversions, and scale.

“There’s a lot of real-world math involved to calculate how big their boats will need to be (volume) to fit their team. It’s phenomenal to see how excited they get about math concepts,” Franka said.

Students learned physics and engineering concepts through sailing and rigging led by the U.S. Sailing Center.

They also learned 3D design concepts by navigating the 3D space using Tinkercad to build complex objects and prepared the boat for 3D printing. 3D Design was led by the Long Beach Public Library.

Permitted materials include recycled cardboard, duct tape, plastic wrap and scotch guard for waterproofing. No other materials were allowed.

According to Franka, the goal was to make the boats fast, buoyant, artistic and sustainable. Boats were weighed on the last day to determine the team’s boat that was most sustainable.

Students were given about one day to work on the Design Thinking elements and three days to design and prototype the sailboat. About half a day was designated to building the sailboat itself.

According to Franka, students worked with instructors on the program team, four pre-service teachers (CSU students majoring in teaching) from Cal State Long Beach, and one industrial design student. They also got a chance to work with instructors from the U.S. Sailing Center and the Long Beach Public Library.

The Summer STEAM Institute started the week on Monday, July 22 and ended on Monday, Aug. 5.

Summer STEAM Institute is part of the ABC (Art of Building a City) Project, a three-year enrichment program led by Dramatic Results that aims to broaden students’ horizons. For more information, go to

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