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Ahoy, A Creative Regatta Revelry: 2023 Homecoming Cardboard Boat Race Highlights

Updated: Sep 26, 2023

Anika Raisa Chowdhury, Staff Writer

The 2023 Homecoming Boat Race. Photo//Anika Chowdhury

The University of Michigan-Dearborn's annual Homecoming celebration provides a wide array of enjoyable activities for students. Among these activities was the highly anticipated Homecoming Boat Race, which took place at the Chancellor's Pond on Monday, Sept. 18. In this annual event, student organizations compete in a race against one another on boats made out of cardboard pieces while a student, staff and faculty-made audience cheers on their favorite team.


Following the tradition, light refreshments of cinnamon donuts and apple cider were provided, but new this year, music played by WUMD set a jovial vibe to the event. Additionally, Bruce the Goose who showed off with a sailor captain hat to cheer on the participating teams, and Moses, the campus therapy dog, were among the audience.


This exciting competition was coordinated by the Office of Student Life, with Jennifer Kowalczyk, the Campus Wide and Family Program Coordinator, and Drew Dykowski, the Campus Involvement Coordinator, taking the helm as the principal organizers.


Bruce the Goose setting the Homecoming Spirit. Photo//Anika Chowdhury

During the event, teams were pitted against two or three other student organizations, each equipped with homemade boats crafted exclusively from cardboard and duct tape. No other materials were allowed in boat construction, except for plastic film materials like plastic bags or saran wrap, and the use of tape, duct tape, or glue to hold the boat together. Some teams chose to use paddles, which, in keeping with the rules, were also crafted from the same materials as the boats themselves.


Teams were responsible for retrieving and appropriately disposing of all boat components after the conclusion of the races – setting the stage for a creative and eco-friendly competition.


The winner of each heat was determined by which team could successfully launch their boat, navigate it to the other end of the pond, and bring it back to shore without it sinking in the fastest completion time.


In this year's competition, there were four distinct heats, or rounds. In the first heat, competitors included Wolverine Media Network, Theta Tau, Biology Club, and the Michigan Aeronautical Science Association. The victor of this heat was Wolverine Media Network.


WMN winning the first heat. Photo//Anika Chowdhury

The second heat witnessed participation from the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), the Biomedical Engineering Society, Dearborn Support, and the Intelligent System Club, with the Biomedical Engineering Society emerging as the triumphant team.


Despite not securing victory in the Homecoming Boat Race, SWE demonstrated remarkable determination and sportsmanship. The team's captain and president of SWE, Zoie Mink, exhibited unwavering perseverance by choosing to continue the race even after SWE’s boat flipped in the middle of the pond – showcasing the true spirit of participation and the importance of embracing challenges, regardless of the outcome.


This round also saw a very unique and interesting boat design in form of a mechanical wheel by the Intelligent System Club, which required the captain to roll inside it to navigate across the pond.


In the third heat, a unique occurrence unfolded as Creative Needs, the UM-Dearborn Baseball Team, and Casual Gaming Club all tied competing against the Greek Community Phi Sigma Sigma.


The final heat concluded with the Student Government securing victory against the Yemeni Student Association, the Student Association for Filipino Americans, and the Student Activities Board.


Following these intense heats, a final round convened, in which the winners from each preliminary heat returned for a final race. Ultimately, Casual Gaming Club claimed the first-place position in the overall boat race standings. Wolverine Media Network secured the second-place overall finish, and Student Government achieved third place overall.


The final overall round. Photo//Anika Chowdhury


In addition to recognizing the swiftest boats during the race, participants also had the opportunity to garner accolades through student votes for the best-decorated boat, their favorite “submarine” boat, and the most spirited boat.


What made this event truly special was the level of creativity displayed by the participating teams. Boat designs ranged from the sleek and streamlined to the whimsical and eye-catching. It was evident that students had put their heart and soul into crafting these vessels.


The stage, refreshments and registration booth during the event. Photo//Anika Chowdhury


Additionally, the sense of camaraderie among participants was palpable. Teams collaborated, cheered each other on, and celebrated the spirit of competition with enthusiasm. It wasn't just about winning; it was about enjoying the process and showcasing their inventive solutions.


One can only wonder what imaginative cardboard creations will grace the waters of the Chancellor's Pond next year.

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