It Was Sink or Float for Spartans in the 10th Annual Engineering Regatta

Blaring sun, high humidity and a balmy 95-degrees was the perfect setting for taking a dip in the St. Stephen’s pool one May afternoon. Under the golden sun, this poolside party was all about the gold that engineering students were competing to win at the 10th Annual Engineering Regatta. The decade-old Regatta race tradition promotes teamwork and brings all aspects of a STEM project to life. Before students test their boats in wavy waters, they are grouped in teams and are required to write a design proposal, create a 3D digital mockup and a prototype of their boat. Following strict rules, boats cannot be longer than six feet, and there’s a limit to the number and type of joints they can include in the design. The overall size, shape, frame and unique joint configuration is what differentiates each boat.

"It’s really nice to hear the discussions and the reasoning going on in their groups," said Physics and Engineering Instructor Danielle Horton. "I'm so proud of all that they've done and what they're applying to this project that they don't necessarily know they're using engineering skills and concepts they’ve learned throughout the year."

On race day, students head to the pool carrying their boats that have become personal pets with names like “Usain Boat,” “Flounder,” “Tiburon,” “Le Boat” and “GOAT.”

A three-man crew led by future Cornell University rower, Evan Yang ’24 and Beltre Curtis ‘24 sailed into first place with their design appropriately named “Usain Boat.” Teammate Joshua Natinsky ’25 was feeling confident at the finish line, and said there was a recipe to their success.

“We started off with a good proposal and then followed through with the execution,” said Natinsky.

Horton kept a close eye on each race recording the results as each team tries hard to feverishly row and keep their boat afloat. With a few parents and other students on the sidelines rooting and cheering them on, two teams must row to one end of the pool and back, and whoever makes it back to the starting line first–still in their boat–wins.

It was a tough race for a couple of the teams whose boats started sinking as soon as the rowers climbed in and tried to sit down. In all good experiments, and in life, these unexpected outcomes often become teaching moments. Sebastian Estep’s ’25 team chose to take on a more complex design with a true canoe-like shape, and were proud that their boat stayed afloat crossing the finish line, even though they weren’t the fastest in the class. His dad, Eric, eagerly watched from the side of the pool and said teamwork is the name of the game.

“Let’s say you have the perfect boat, but you're out of sync on the rowing, or, you don’t have everyone participate together, then you still wouldn't be the fastest,” said Eric. “You have to have it all–teamwork, paddling and you also have to have a good boat.”
Eric said he loves seeing his son building something in class with his hands that is applicable to the real world.
Address: 6500 St. Stephen's Dr., Austin, TX 78746
Phone: (512) 327-1213