Saturday, May 22, 1999

Paper kayak takes Miami crew to competition

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        OXFORD — They don't call it a paper dream anymore. A team of Miami University students will race a one-person kayak — made exclusively of paper products — in competition today near Atlanta.

        “I know it sounds odd,” said Ryan MacPherson, who designed the kayak. “I would never have guessed that you could make a kayak of paper materials. But it's true.”

        Competitors must design, build and race a kayak made of paper products to qualify for a race sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. Mr. MacPherson said he and two partners spent a school year studying and working on the project.

        “They even tested the kayak at the rec center and at Hueston Woods (Acton Lake),” said Claire Wagner, a Miami spokeswoman. “It's really cool.”

        The Miami students will compete against other college teams at Sweetwater Creek State Park for $20,000 in prizes and the honor of winning the “Energy Challenge '99” race.

        The Miami students, all May graduates of the school's paper science and engineering program, are: Elizabeth Herriott, Youngstown; Bryan Coffey, Middletown, and Mr. MacPherson, of Rockford, Ill.

        The kayak is their senior project for the competition, co-sponsored by the Institute of Paper Science and Technology and the pulp and paper industry. The competition's goal is to enhance the efficiency and economic competitiveness of the U.S. forest products industry.

        “Only 10 teams qualified for the race,” said Marty Sikora, chairman of the paper science department. “So it was notable just to get that far.”

        The kayaks had to be made of paper products, including wood fiber, wood pulp, secondary wood cellulose, liner board, corrugated board and commonly used paper chemicals.

        The kayak cannot be more than 9 feet long and 21/2 feet wide, and weigh no more than 35 pounds.

        “I've ridden in a kayak before, but I'm no expert,” Mr. MacPherson said. “To do this, we had to research the history of kayaks and determine the specifications we'd need. Then we went to work. We built a bunch of prototypes and models. I think our final version is pretty good.”

        While Mr. MacPherson pad dles the kayak in a timed race, he will be judged on safety, speed and performance.

        “They will also grade us on design, rigidity, weight, post-consumer use and so forth,” he said.

        “Ours is made of 100-strength recycled material. A lot of it came from Middletown Paperboard and Inland Container in Middletown.”

        The winning kayak will go on a national tour and then be placed in a paper-making museum in New York.


        Name: The Possible Paper Kayak

        Designer: Ryan MacPherson, Miami University graduate

        How constructed: By hand

        Weight: 35 pounds

        Length: 9 feet

        Materials: Mostly 100 percent recycled corrugated cardboard with a special exterior that's like a heavy book cover. Waterproof coating.

        Complement: One

        Displacement: 250 pounds

        Comments: “It's like floating in a cardboard box.” — Mr. MacPherson


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