Inside USD

Students Make a Splash with Science

Friday, April 27, 2012

USD’s annual Walk on Water competition, held April 21 this year, teaches basic principles such as buoyancy, stability and propulsion and after more than 20 years, students have it down to, well, a science.

Sponsored by USD’s Engineering Programs, the event attracts high school and college students who use materials like Styrofoam, plywood, and lots of duct tape, to attach lots of extras to their “shoes,” such as “flaps” to grab the water from underneath, ”spoilers” to push back the water from behind, and “fins” to boost their speed.

This year 25 teams took part in the event. Preparing for the competition was “really fun,” said Clare Miller, a senior from La Jolla High School who said it taught her a lot about hydrodynamics and propulsion. Miller piloted her “Water Vikings” team shoe and took second-place in the competition across the Sports Center pool. She and her teammates were rewarded with $25 gift cards from Best Buy.

But another La Jolla team, the 18-minute Gap (a reference to the Watergate scandal which team members have been studying) had athletics on their side as well science and engineering.

“You have to be a really good runner,” said Howe Cui (pictured right with his teammate Ian Trahan), who trains for walking on water by running the 300-yard hurdles on the La Jolla track team.

While Cui piloted his shoe to first place, teammate Ian Trahan explained how his team used plywood strips on the sides of the shoe, doubled-layered in the middle and single at the ends to create just the right balance of stability and propulsion.

For the second year in a row, their team which also included Sarah Herrman and Emily Dinerman, took home first place. Each team member was rewarded with a $50 gift card. And those who would compete next year should be forewarned — they’re only juniors so they’ll be back to try and defend their title for a third time in 2013.

— Liz Harman

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