MEDINA, Ohio - It's not always easy to come up with the right combination of junk to make a really good junk boat.
Discarded plastic kiddie pools often quickly take on water. Duct tape doesn't always sufficiently stick to milk jugs. Sixteen-ounce water bottles tend to roll every which way when you try to string them together.
Big ideas sometimes translate into unwieldy watercraft. And sometimes the simplest designs work best - and sometimes not.
Medina High School students put all of these ideas and more to the test Monday during the sixth annual Junk Boat Float at Forest Meadows Lake.
Sam the resident swan looked on in disdain as 28 teams competed in heats to see who would be this year's winner.
In the end, defending champion Boatily Floatily - designed and captained by seniors Nolan Andrasik, Zach Robertson and Jake Wickert - once again took top honors while proudly flying a Medina cross country flag.
The Junk Boat Float is meant to raise awareness about water pollution and conservation. It started out as a way for biology and environmental science teachers Laura Frawley and Jessica Niemantsverdriet (Mrs. Nemo) to teach their lessons in a fun way.
Spanish teacher Sharon Schorr and her husband, Nelson, and physics teacher Andy Krejci also help out. Longhorn Steakhouse provides a burger and hot dog lunch to participants.
In addition to its educational mission, the Junk Bloat Float raises funds for water bottle filling stations at city schools and the public restrooms on the Medina square.
The stations have filled the equivalent of 80,000 water bottles so far.
Proceeds from this year's $36 entry fee for each team will go toward purchasing a station for Claggett or A.I. Root middle school. Volunteer group VOFT will put up the money for a second middle school station.
"It's hard to believe it's our sixth year already," Niemantsverdriet said.
The competition has expanded beyond the original group of honors biology and Spanish students to embrace the entire student body.
"It's still primarily science and Spanish students, but anyone was welcome to enter a boat. We have quite a few underclassmen, which is nice," she said.
The teachers hope that means those students will be back next year, with new designs or improvements on this year's boats.
Sharon Schorr said a number of this year's entrants revamped their watercraft in hopes of making them faster and more buoyant.
Boatily Floatily's team was among that group, crafting a sleeker look for their well-engineered wood and water jug longboat.
"It's as good as a kayak," Schorr said.
Others tried new designs.
"This is the first year we've had paddlewheel boats, and we've got two of them," Niemantsverdriet said.
One of those paddlewheel boats turned out to be a little too unwieldy, with its wooden frame, pedal-powered bicycle engine and plastic barrel wheels. It was difficult to steer and listed to the side.
Its trio of captains eventually abandoned ship and tugged it back ashore during one race.
Senior Sabrina Sowa said she opted not to go with a three-person boat this year.
"I had a big boat last year, and decided this year to build it smaller and faster. It's just me paddling instead of three people," she said.
She designed The Flying Dutchman with her sister, Savannah, and Carlee Lisser, also both seniors.
It consisted of a wooden board and stacked plastic bottles wrapped in shrink wrap, with a plastic sled on top for a seat.
"We used lots of duct tape. We ran through two or three rolls, at least," she said.
Also opting for "simpler is better" was the crew of Revenge of Walter, a neatly stacked and tightly wrapped boat of plastic water bottles attached to a wooden frame.
"We tried to make it as symmetrical as possible for balance purposes," said senior Janiece Joyner....Read more