Over 230 Westwood Intermediate and Middle School seventh grade students who are in the school’s Science, Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) class raced rafts they built May 30 in the pool at Spring Lake Park High School.

The STEM students, who were in groups of three to five students, had two weeks to build a raft using only cardboard, plastic liter bottles, one roll of duct tape and plastic wrap. Each group collected all the materials.

This is the first time Westwood Intermediate and Middle School students have done the project.

Last year, STEM teacher Jason Gable and science teacher Kyle Detert were brainstorming projects the STEM students could do. Detert suggested the raft project.

“We thought this would be a challenging project, but also fun at the same time,” Gable said. “The raft project challenges students to come up with a solution to a problem ... For this project students had to be very creative because they were limited to only four things.”

To construct the raft, students had to design a process to brainstorm raft structures, design their product to distribute the weight of the rider to keep them from being “eaten,” build the raft using only the four supplies provided and then test their end product.

The students, who were separated into 52 teams, tested out their rafts by racing them May 30 in the Spring Lake Park High School pool. Twelve rafts made it across the pool.

“This was a really unique project where we got to be creative,” said seventh grader Grace Armstrong. “This project involved a lot of trial and error, but it’s so cool to finally test out your final raft and see how it does.”

Gable said the goal of the project was to help students better understand displacement in addition to teaching them how to collaborate as a group.

“I loved working together as a group to create our raft, and it’s cool seeing what everyone else made,” said seventh grader Gavin Welch. “This is a great STEM project because it really teaches us to work together while using STEM skills.”

“It was nice to have the chance to work with a partner and make something we both envisioned and then build it, try it out and use them,” added seventh grader Jakob Ellingson.

“It is my hope that in presenting challenges such as this to my STEM students, if and when they are faced with challenges in life, they may be better able to look at them and find a solution on their own,” Gable said. “It has always been my goal for these students to leave my classroom with an increased level of autonomy.”


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