Raft Race at Summer Camp

The camp staff placed a supply of materials in an open area by the lake assigned as the designated raft building place. Groups of Scouts could use any of the materials there to create whatever kind of raft they chose. On hand were lengths of precut bamboo, plastic 55 gallon drums, and lengths of old manila rope. There was no set raft building schedule, so Scouts could devote as much of their free time as they wanted. The only definition regarding time factor was that of the race itself, scheduled for Friday at 3:00 p.m.

This raft building venture revealed a consideration that was not so obvious for many who participated, either in an advisory capacity or as a builder — a little something called “center off gravity”. As soon as many of the rafts were launched, this not so obvious consideration quickly reared its head, to the shock and surprise of the riders and to the delight of many observers. As soon as the race began, some of the rafts that looked like they’d do just fine performed a 180º flip over. By lashing on their drums directly under the bamboo, without taking into consideration the need to provide some form of counter balance, many of the Scouts had created a center of gravity that was too high, and this resulted in an unexpected and immediate dunking. All in all, it was a great race! And, after the race, I happened to overhear a wet group of Scouts remark, “That was fun. We gotta do that again!” Experience is the best teacher.

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