BY WENDI REARDON
Clarkston News Staff Writer
Time is ticking down for students as they build their boats and find sponsors for the ninth Annual RUSH Regatta, July 9.
Clarkston High School Team RUSH students sophomore Val Vargas, juniors Megan Haddad, Brandon Kirk and Gabe Weir are excited for this year’s regatta.
“Every year it’s a big bonding experience,” said Vargas. “You get closer to different people on the team.”
“It also initiates the new students,” Kirk added. “They just joined the team a few weeks ago and they were thrown in. It gets them ready for what RUSH is like. We have a lot of crunch time and then we have down time. It gets us ready for build season. We get to meet and get to know the new students.”
The mission remains the same for the teams – build a boat out of cardboard and duct tape. This year’s stipulations include the parameter can’t be more than 34 feet and carring three stronghold boulders, the balls used during FIRST robotics competitions.
“There is also an end game,” Vargas added.
“We have a firing mechanism and we load the balls into a goal at the end of the race,” said Kirk. “When people design their boat they don’t put a lot of thought into it. But it is something you have to think about or something could go wrong.”
The teams started getting to work after school got out on June 15, which gives them less than a month to build a cardboard boat.
“The way the timing worked this year it is a much shorter timeline,” said Vargas. “It’s a lot more difficult to run smoothly and efficiently when you are so rushed.”
Haddad, Kirk, Vargas and Weir have collected cardboard which they admit is not as thick as they would like it.
“The cardboard you use does change the way your boat is built,” said Kirk.
“What we have now is good for decoration until we get more,” Weir added.
Not only do the teams have less time to build their boats, but also to get sponsorships from businesses and residents with sponsorship commitments due on July 4.
“It is going pretty well,” said Kirk. “But the hardest part is once people pledge money it’s getting them to follow through with their pledge.”
“It has been overwhelming,” said Haddad, who is new to Team RUSH. “My team has been really helpful and encouraging. There’s a lot involved and it’s hard to learn in a couple of weeks.”
Vargas added her team last year won the Cash Crusaders Award, which goes to the team that collects the most sponsorship funds.
“We raised over $5,000 and we are trying to push to do the same thing this year.”
The money raised goes towards Team RUSH and helps during the competition season as well as throughout the year.
“It benefits the whole community,” Kirk said. “We run so many community events like Holiday Lights Parade, RUSH Robotics Camps and we participate in the 4th of July parade. It’s not just going to us – it goes to everyone.”
“It’s important we make that impact because these younger kids who come to the camp are the future of RUSH,” Weir added.
Haddad, Kirk, Vargas and Weir invite the community to come out for RUSH Regatta at Deer Lake Beach, off White Lake Road, at noon.
“It’s so much fun,” said Vargas. “The adults always laugh at our costumes, during the boat parade and when we sink. I think the most fun thing we do is at the end when we race to the dumpster. We smash the boats together. If your boat is good all of us have tools in the water and trying to tear it apart.”