With nothing but cardboard, three rolls of duct tape and a utility knife, students participating in the Yale Engineering Design Team’s competition last weekend were able to fashion two-passenger boats capable of staying afloat for up to 42 seconds.

The boat-building competition, the fall counterpart to spring semester’s Junk Yale Wars, is one of a number of events the YEDT holds throughout the year to get students interested in engineering, regardless of their academic interests. The YEDT held a meeting Monday afternoon to gauge student interest in their latest project, a collaborative effort with the Yale chapter of the Society for Automotive Engineers and a senior design class to build a hybrid-powered formula race car.

This year, the boat-building competition attracted a diverse cross-section of Yale students, including architecture majors and graduate students.

“It’s a quick, fun event that participants are really able to sink their teeth into even though it’s the first week of school,” YEDT President Jonathan Hartman ’09 said.

YEDT building events coordinator Drausin Wulsin ’07 said the boat-building event is practical from an organizational standpoint and an easy way for students to get involved with the club even if they do not have any building experience. Teams of two to three students were given two hours and 45 minutes to construct their entries.

“The boat-building competition is a great way to start off the year because it doesn’t require any technical engineering background,” TJ Myelle ’08 said. “No one has a major advantage.”

But veteran competitors Vanessa Mendoza ’09 and Quentin Lindsey ’07, who won last year’s boat-building event, said they implement a creative strategy: They try to build with waxier cardboard boxes, a trick they said many builders do not consider.

Such innovation is one of the aspects of the building events that coordinators wanted to emphasize, underscoring that there is a creative, hands-on element to engineering that most people do not recognize sitting in the classroom, Myelle said.

The waxy boxes could not win Mendoza and Lindsey the boat-building challenge this year, though. The defending champions were defeated by Allison Polland ’07 and Samuel Flores GRD ’06, whose 42-second entry won the day.

In addition to hands-on building events, the YEDT sponsors academic ongoing research projects throughout the year, such as an entry for a robotic model helicopter competition that the group is currently working on. The helicopters have to be able to navigate themselves through a metropolitan area and find specific buildings based on their architectural design. Although the U.S. military sponsors the robotics competition, Hartman said such helicopters have various civilian applications, including search-and-rescue and firefighting operations.

Hartman said the YEDT is also trying to organize another nautical engineering activity.