Titans Team Advances to Final in Boat Design Competition

T.C. Williams High School Titans STEMX team has been named as one of the four finalists in the 2016 Society for Naval Architects and Marine Engineers High School Boat Design Competition. The finalists were announced at the awards luncheon at Huntington-Ingalls Shipyard in Newport News last month. All the finalists see their boats built by a shipyard in Newport News.


The project started as an idea for an after school club and quickly evolved into a STEM capstone project that spans the school year and challenges students to develop a solution to a community problem. This project required students to design a boat as part of a competition as a way to increase awareness of the naval architecture profession and the ship building industry.

The STEMX team is made up of five sophomore students: Kirsten Emblom, Sabrina Melendez, Mohammed Mohammed, Isabel Sparks and Yonael Tekleberhan. The team is led by STEM Instructor John Hammons, who introduced the project to the team.

It is the best-kept secret in Virginia. It is completely free and it enables students to take an idea in their heads and build it to the scale of an actual boat. And, they get to see the whole process from concept to design. Even if they are not successful in winning the competition but are successful in completing and submitting a design, students get a ton of experience and learn a great deal from the process,” said Hammons.

The process, which began in October, required students to use math, science and their own creative abilities along with engineering, drafting, project planning and leadership principles, to design the fastest, most maneuverable boat with the materials provided.

Kristen Emblom enjoyed the process of designing something from scratch.

I like how a design develops over time as it is being created and how much math is involved,” said Emblom.

As one of the final four out of the 41 teams that entered the competition, the STEMX team had the honor of having their boat design built by the by the Apprentice School of Newport News Shipbuilding.

I liked learning how to use different technology, like the computer-aided design (CAD) software program, and how to apply it to building a boat,” said Mohammed.

On Saturday, April 30 the team will participate in race day at The Mariner’s Museum in Newport News where they and their remote-controlled boat will compete against the other three teams in a series of maneuverability races to determine the 2016 overall champion of the competition.

We started celebrating when we made it to the final 12. We never expected to make it to the final four. But, we worked really hard and feel like we deserve it,” said Mohammed.

Finishing out the rest of the school year and completing their capstone project, the team is developing a filtration system for the boat that will remove toxins from the Potomac River.

The next big challenge: how to transport the 5′ x 3′ x 18″ deep, 300 lb. boat back to T.C. Williams after the competition.


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