Students paddle their handmade cardboard boats for a STEM competition

FORT SILL, Okla. — Lawton Public Schools elementary students tested their engineering skills at the district’s third annual Cardboard Cup, held Jan. 5 at Rinehart Fitness Center on Fort Sill. The students competed in five categories: best engineering design notebook, best team logo, best aesthetic boat, recycled robot boat race and cardboard boat race.

Sixteen teams were assembled from their Makerspace classes – a science, technology, engineering and mathematics program available to all kindergarten through fifth grade students at Lawton’s elementary sites. The students had to create their boats with only guidance from their teachers.

The event kicked off with the robot boat race, pitting seven student pilots from different teams against each others’ creations. Students used Sphero Robots, a small device controlled by an iPad, and made their robot float with recyclable products. The winning student, with a device able to travel 50 meters, was Sullivan Village Elementary’s fourth grade student Lilli Giardini of the “Dark Garfield and the H20 UFO” team.

“I felt really excited at first, but I was really nervous if it was going to make it because I couldn’t tell if it hit the edge or not,” Lilli said. “I was excited to win, and I was happy to see my team was happy too.”

The Sullivan Village team, coached by James Cunningham, consists of Diego Angel, Jacob Bennett, Arden Coats, Mariah Coward, Rylan Dove, Lilli Giardini, Naomi Jenkins, Liam Keith, Isabella Kilburn, Nathan McMasters, Elizabeth Renschen, Joseph Self and Vanya Van Ryzin.

While teams’ recycled robot pilots raced at the pool, the remainder of the team constructed their cardboard boats on site in the building area. The students began building at 9:30 a.m. and had three hours to build a boat that would hold a student and travel across the 25 meter pool. The students were required to use a limited amount of materials – pre-measured cardboard box pieces and a limited amount of duct tape.

With a time of 35.38 seconds, the first place winners were Eisenhower Elementary School’s “Electric Eels” team. The Eisenhower team includes Kaiden Codynah, Javonte Holloway, Khavari Holloway, Abel Luther and Gabriel Moreno, and is coached by Preslee Scarbro. 

“It’s been months of work, so this feels amazing,” Scarbro said. “This is my first year as a teacher, and just hearing everything about the boat races and all of the pressure that it puts on. It feels amazing to win, and the students’ hard work really paid off. I'm so proud of them. I'm so, so proud of them.”

The Best Aesthetic Award was voted on by attendees of the event and nearly 13,000 votes through social media, in addition to a graded rubric. The award was won by Edison Elementary School’s “Super Hawks,” coached by Angel Lopez and made up of Jonathan Melendez, Kaylee Kendall, Anna Lido, Ariah-Lynn Mantonona, Emilia Moore and Maxwell Mullen.

The Best Team Logo Award and the Best Team Engineering Design Notebook were both won by Lincoln Elementary School’s “Floating Jets.” The team includes Patience Caldwell, Estefany Chaver-Rivera, Kyleigh Keith and Jailend Steele, and is coached by Samantha Martin.

The recorded event can be viewed on

Cover Image:
Photo by Morgan Thompson/Lawton Public Schools
Ridgecrest Elementary School students Saul Hernandez, left, and Robert Hildenbrand, race across Rinehart Fitness Center’s pool at the Lawton Public Schools Cardboard Cup 2024 on Fort Sill, Oklahoma. The Ridgecrest team worked on their designs for several weeks for the annual competition.

Photo by Elijah Morlett/Lawton Public Schools
Hugh Bish Elementary student Elizabeth Phillips paddles her boat at the Lawton Public Schools Cardboard Cup 2024 at Rinehart Fitness Center on Fort Sill, Oklahoma. The event, held Jan. 5, had students create cardboard boats with limited materials and race them across the 25-meter pool.

Photo by Elle Sawyer/Life Ready Center
The Edison Elementary School “Super Hawks” team prepares their cardboard boat to race Jan. 5 at the Rinehart Fitness Center pool on Fort Sill, Oklahoma. The “Super Hawks” were one of sixteen teams competing at the Lawton Public Schools Cardboard Cup 2024, a STEM competition focused on teaching the engineering design process to elementary students.

Photo by Elle Sawyer/Life Ready Center
Crosby Park Elementary student Kennedy Pitts races across a 25-meter pool on Fort Sill, Oklahoma, for the Lawton Public Schools Cardboard Cup 2024. Sixteen elementary teams competed in five categories at the district’s annual contest: best engineering design notebook, best team logo, best aesthetic boat, recycled robot boat race and cardboard boat race.