TiPPsy: TPP Competes in Annual Cardboard Regatta
by Matthieu Couturier ’10, aka “Capt’n Cardboard”
On a warm September afternoon, while having a delicious Anna’s Taqueria quesadilla (hey I’m still on a student’s budget!), I found a flier for an upcoming event “Head of the Zesiger Regatta — Build a cardboard boat”. That’s how, a few weeks later, three of us ended up dressed as pirates, on a sinking cardboard ship, white paint leaking all over the Z-Center’s pool, officials growling at us, while a large TPP crowd cheered us on. It was a fun afternoon.
The regatta was organized by the athletics department to encourage ingenuity, team building and craftsmanship. The concept was simple enough: paddle 50 meter across a pool, go ‘round a buoy and come back as fast as you can. But here’s the tricky part: you had to do this in a 3 person cardboard boat of your own making. Allowed construction materials were cardboard, paper tape, some caulk for the seams and paint. As for propulsion, each crew member was given a foam kickboard to use as a paddle (and trust me, those things were not designed to be used as paddles!). Four prizes were awarded: fastest, most spirited, best technically constructed and best sinker. Eleven teams registered and, surprisingly enough (then again this is MIT), most of them made it across and back.
The TPP boat, aptly named TiPPsy (up to this day, we still can’t get her to go in a straight line), was built over the course of a week, in the basement of the Sidney Pacific graduate residence. The first step was to gather cardboard. We found a lot of it around campus and most TPP people were more than happy to offload their extra cardboard onto us. My room was packed with folded up boxes! We then purchased a few necessary supplies: 2 gallons of white paint, some red paint for aesthetics and decoration, 2 rolls of paper tape, a caulk gun and 4 cartridges of “Window & Door – 100% Silicone Sealant” (A big thanks to the TPSS for funding some of our purchases). All we needed now was a design. Thankfully for me, I had a few people on my team who actually knew what they were doing (Terms like “buoyancy” or “Archimedes’ principle” bring back painful memories of high school physics). By the end of it all, we had a massive 60-pound, 3-meter long, flat-bottomed kayak, painted in white with bright red shark teeth in front. TiPPsy was born!
We now needed a crew, ready to brave the ferocious waters of the Z-center pool! Our selection process was gruesome: a 20k run, a 5k swim in the Charles and then reciting Romeo and Juliet from memory in a pirate’s voice while tap-dancing. Actually, the day before the race, I had to beg and plead to find a third crew member (research meetings have the nasty habit of being scheduled at the worst of times).
The race itself went quite well. We survived the first round finishing in 2:16min. but did not reach the finals, missing out on that coveted third place by a mere second. Thanks to the support of our TPP fans, the judges allowed us to do a “victory lap”. TiPPsy successfully crossed the pool again, actually doing better time than one of the finalists, only to meet her demise after the finishing line. She finally sunk amidst a growing whirlpool of leaking white paint – in a blaze of glory.
So what did we learn from this adventure? Well, dressing up like a pirate is fun, cardboard actually floats and some of us students in TPP have way too much time on our hands (please do not give a copy of this article to my supervisor). I hope to see many of you next year at the Z-center, for the third edition of the race!