e s f home link - e s f college of environmental science and forestry
e s f home link - e s f college of environmental science and forestry

ESF's Paper Kayak Heads to Competition in Georgia


SYRACUSE, N.Y.- A group of students from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) hopes to propel a paper kayak toward a $15,000 prize during a race in Georgia Saturday.

The students, all of whom are enrolled in ESF's Faculty of Paper Science and Engineering, are competing in Energy Challenge '99, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Institute of Paper Science and Technology. ESF is one of seven colleges and universities competing for $20,000 in prizes.

Junior Joe Reff of Watertown will pilot the 25-pound kayak that he and six other students constructed in the basement of ESF's Walters Hall.

"I got picked to pilot it because I'm the shortest and I've spent a lot of time in a canoe," said Reff. "The boat has pretty much been designed around me."

The students began work on the project in November. They collected about 40 pounds of cardboard from recycling bins on the ESF campus. They ripped it into little pieces and ran it through the pulping process, mixing it with chemicals donated by several companies.

The kayak's ribs and beam are made from rigid cardboard. The inner skin is made from strong, flexible cardboard that wraps around the ribs and beam.

Using the smaller of the two paper machines on the ESF campus, the students transformed the pulp into sturdy, waterproof paper that forms the craft's outer skin. The resulting craft measures 7 1/2 feet long, 18 inches high and 30 inches wide and weighs about 25 pounds. It is the same color brown as a grocery sack.

Student Shane Cheshire of Sodus Point, a junior who acted as project manager, estimates "a few thousand hours" have gone into constructing the craft. The students plan to load the kayak into an ESF van Wednesday for the trip to Atlanta.

Cheshire said the kayak is sturdy enough to handle whatever stress is inflicted by Reff's paddle "Joe can get in there and paddle like a mad man and it's not going to fall apart on him," Cheshire said. "It will be totally waterproof. No water will get in no matter how much he splashes around. Even if he capsizes, it will be OK."

The contest combines the students' engineering ability with their kayak's energy efficiency.

"Our kayak is very energy efficient," Cheshire said. "It's made from more than 99 percent recycled materials and it's 100 percent recyclable."

Other students involved in the project are Todd Bolton of Watertown; Brian Richeda of Endicott; Kyle McCarthy of Catskill; Jamie Smith of Fabius; and Jesse Ziegler of Carlisle, Pa.

Competition standings will be based on kayak performance during the timed race, written reports, safety considerations and how well the kayak meets size and weight specifications. The first-, second-, and third-place teams' home schools will receive $15,000, $3,000, and $2,000, respectively.

The competition requires the teams to design, construct, and race a one-person kayak made exclusively from paper products that can include wood fiber, wood pulp, secondary wood cellulose, linerboard, corrugated board, and commonly used paper chemicals. The teams designed the kayaks to meet size specifications of no more than 9 feet long, 2.5 feet wide and 35 pounds in weight.

The purpose of Energy Challenge '99 is to foster education and awareness of manufacturing design efficiency, packaging technology, waste minimization and pulp and paper industrial processes. The competition correlates with DOE's Agenda 2020, a program to enhance the economic competitiveness of the U.S. forest products industry and to help the pulp and paper industry reach the vision of more energy efficient manufacturing processes by the year 2020.