Students, faculty join families for boatbuilding project

boatbuildingVisitors to Oswego’s Maritime District one autumn weekend may have spied a few small boats with families taking to the water for the first time. The launch resulted from a large effort teaming SUNY Oswego students and faculty with the community.

Three weekends of work by SUNY Oswego senior technology majors Jim Roland and Jon Shelley with faculty members Richard Bush and Dan Tryon, coupled with two community organizations and five local families equaled a successful exercise in education, construction and family fun, Tryon said.

The Oswego Maritime Foundation and H. Lee White Marine Museum wanted an activity to introduce families to boating and started working with the professors, who in turn tapped the students who are doing an independent-study course with Tryon.

Throughout their time at SUNY Oswego, Roland and Shelley “have always been there to help, whatever the cause,” Tryon said. “For this project, the students each put in more than 50 hours and continued to work to pull this off for the community.”

The project was a natural connection since the college can offer “the skills, equipment, knowledge and expertise in these areas to help the community,” Bush said.

Roland and Shelley spent a Saturday cutting out and preparing parts to create kits for nine-foot flat-bottom rowboats so participants wouldn’t need a lot of building experience to assemble the boats.

Raby’s Ace Home Center made a “significant donation” of materials including plywood, lumber, resin and marine-grade paint, Roland said.

The following weekend, the students and Oswego Maritime Foundation volunteers spent two full days working with five families ranging in age from elementary school to retirees. The next Saturday, the group put on finishing touches like paint and decals, then launched their boats in the Oswego Harbor.

“For many of the families, this was their first time on the water or building anything substantial,” Bush noted.

“They loved it,” Tryon said. “I think everything worked even better than we could have imagined.”

While the families gained experience, a sense of accomplishment and their own boats for future use, the students benefited as well.

“It was a great experience for us to work with the community, so when we get a job teaching we’ll understand how to work with various groups,” Shelley said.

Roland explained that technology students become used to completing projects and moving onto the next one, so the enthusiasm of the families was gratifying.

“I underestimated the reaction they would have,” Shelley added. “Within four hours on the first day, they were able to see their boats come together, which they found really exciting.”

As for the future of the boat-building program, all hope for smooth waters ahead.

“There is a list already for people who want to participate next year,” Bush said.

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PHOTO CAPTION: Building boats—Richard Bush (right) of SUNY Oswego’s technology faculty works with mother-and-daughter team Cindy and Zara Schmidt on finishing a nine-foot flat-bottom rowboat recently. Two professors and two students from the college’s technology department created kits and helped local families assemble the boats as part of a community project with the Oswego Maritime Foundation and H. Lee White Marine Museum.

(Posted: Nov 01, 2006)