BSU Students Learn What Floats Their Boats on Lake Bemidji

On September 8, students in Bemidji State University’s Engineering Problem Solving course took to Lake Bemidji with boats cobbled together from plywood, foam sheets, plastic totes and air mattresses, all in the names of teamwork and problem solving.

Each project group worked within a $50 budget to construct a vessel seaworthy enough to paddle from the Lake Bemidji shoreline at Diamond Point Park, around a buoy and back to shore, a distance of about 50 yards.

A student in BSU's Engineering Problem Solving course paddles their boat on Lake BemidjiA student in BSU's Engineering Problem Solving course paddles their boat on Lake Bemidji

According to Dr. Michael Lund, associate professor of technology, art & design, the main project goals were to provide a team-building project for his students, get a baseline for how they problem solve in group settings and take advantage of the last bit of summer in Bemidji.

Only two teams completed the challenge; one boat made it to the buoy, the other about halfway. The other boats didn’t make it far from the dock. All boats were retrieved from the lake and disposed of properly.

A student in BSU's Engineering Problem Solving course paddles their boat on Lake BemidjiA student paddles their boat on Lake Bemidji

“One universal thing that students learned is that you can have a good idea, but without sufficient planning the project can still go south on you,” Lund said. “They also learned it takes both knowledge and experience to effectively solve problems.”

Even though only two teams were successful, the exercise reinforced the importance of teamwork and learning from failure.

Students paddle their homemade boats on Lake Bemidji.Students from the Engineering Problem Solving course watch their classmates paddle their boats on Lake Bemidji

“I stress to my students that we can learn from not only our own failures, but those of others as well,” Lund said. “In the engineering field we solve problems as teams, so being able to work with others on projects is a skill students need to be the best they can be in their careers.”

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