Growing up around water may have been what inspired Dave Friant’s passion for cardboard boats. First conceived as the solution to a college physics project to demonstrate his understanding of the principles of buoyancy and stability of floating objects, Dave subsequently designed numerous eco-friendly boats built with recyclable resources.
The cardboard boat project happened at the right time and the right place in his life and propelled Dave into a lucrative career working in the computer software industry. After becoming proficient with an early computer-aided-drafting (CAD) software program, that he used to draft the original drawings for The Cardboard Boat Book, Dave found himself in demand as an instructor teaching computer-aided-drafting and design to engineers and architects. He eventually became a successful reseller of computer software and systems.
It all started when Dave began lecturing his own engineering class due to the knowledge he had gained using the computer-aided-drafting systems during summer break while drafting the drawings for the book. The college quickly got word that a student was lecturing his own class. The college approached him and he began teaching continuing education courses at the college. One thing led to another and he soon became an instructor and consultant advising companies how to setup CAD systems and teaching their engineers how to use the systems.
Dave learned that not only had he become very proficient using these computers, and was teaching others how to use them, but he also found that he earned the trust of the companies that he was consulting with and found himself selling computer-aided-drafting and design systems to manufacturing firms in the Pacific Northwest.
After a number of years as one of the top resellers of CAD software and systems Dave diversified his career path and went to work in the field of biometrics where he managed large scale identification and authentication implementation projects around the world. Dave subsequently went to work for Microsoft where he manages business and technical programs.
~ Dave Friant is a Civil Engineer by degree and an avid boater. As well as authoring The Cardboard Boat Book, Dave has earned a US Patent for a disposable reading lens, has designed and manufactured a medical device for supporting weak Dorsiflexion of the human ankle which has been in daily use for many years, and has designed and manufactured remotely-piloted sailplanes that have shipped to customers worldwide. He currently manages Business and Technical Programs for Microsoft in Redmond, Washington. Dave is also known in his hometown for his hand-tossed Wild Yeast Sourdough Pizza.
When I recently heard from Dave Friant after over twenty years, I was delighted to hear of his many significant life accomplishments in spite of some major obstacles. As Dave’s former teacher, I was astonished to learn that a small project, which I had assigned to his Engineering Technology class over 25 years ago, had become a motivating theme through the rest of his life.
When Dave told me that he was finally going to publish the First Cardboard Boat Book, which grew out of the project, I was not surprised, remembering what a determined young man he had been. As a student I found Dave to be focused and driven to do his best. In over 30 years as a teacher of Engineering, I have rarely found a student so motivated to succeed in everything he did. When Dave asked me to write a foreword to his book, I knew he would not let go of this until it was done. Since I was partly the instigator, I felt both honored and compelled to say yes.
The cardboard boat project I assigned my Engineering Technology class in 1982 was not an original idea. I first saw the exercise while teaching in the University of Washington School of Architecture. On a small canal I watched with anticipation as students of an architecture studio launched and paddled the small boats they had designed and built out of ordinary cardboard. Some of the boats fared well and some sank immediately to the bottom of the canal.
As a teacher I have always been interested in ways of engaging students through experiential learning, but I had not thought of applying the "sink or swim" principle so literally. At the time I was teaching a course in Hydrology and Hydraulics to Dave’s Civil Engineering Technology class, and I saw the cardboard boat project as a way of exploring stability and buoyancy of floating objects. So I adapted the project for our class and the annual "Sink-R-Swim Cardboard Boat Regatta" was launched at Bellevue Community College.
Our cardboard boat project differed from the architecture project in that it focused on engineering aspects of cardboard boats. It required students to build a cardboard boat that would keep them dry while carrying them over a 100 yd. course in a small lake near campus. Students were allowed a limited quantity of cardboard, tape and glue. The projects were evaluated on their stability, buoyancy, maneuverability, and durability during the contest. We even had boat races to see which boat was the fastest.
The project began with design sketches, following the engineering principles students were learning. Next was a testing phase, where students built a small scale model of their boats and tested them with model weights in a water tank in our lab. I clearly remember coming into the lab one day to find Dave suspended in air, balancing on the backs of two chairs. When I asked what he was doing, he said he was trying to find his center of gravity. I was impressed to see how seriously Dave was taking this exercise. Of course his motivation and competitive spirit were infecting the rest of the class and I knew then what a great learning experience this would be for all of us.
The next phase was the actual construction where students worked out the details of strength, stability, and stiffness of the boats and worked on jointing and waterproofing their crafts. In the regatta, Dave’s original cardboard boat was a head turner, and glided like a water bug across the lake, easily winning in every category. The boat design, craftsmanship, and performance were exceptional. Dave incorporated everything he had learned in class and moved so far beyond with a project that had taken on a life of its own.
Dave had succeeded in building not just any cardboard boat; Dave’s boat was "THE" cardboard boat, and everyone who saw it, knew it.
An important development in the cardboard boat book was the introduction of Computer Aided Drafting and Design (CADD) to our curriculum while Dave was a student. Along with a consortium of colleges our program was granted funding to implement CADD with some of the first personal computers in the college. In a lab we installed 3D CADD software on six new PC’s, where I introduced students to Computer Aided Design.
Captivated by the power of this new technology, Dave Friant immersed himself in the study of CADD the following summer, motivated by the desire to illustrate the great cardboard boat designs he had developed. Dave learned CADD so well he began teaching it to others. The amazingly detailed and clear fold-out illustrations in this book are the result of Dave’s mastery of CADD.
The boat designs in this book are based in sound engineering principles, and excellent craftsmanship through careful construction and testing. With the help of clear illustrations and concise but thorough instructions they are easy to build successfully. Like the project that generated them and the dream of Dave Friant that has sustained them, they have been proven over many years to be strong and durable.
I am deeply honored to recommend this book to anyone who wants to build an inexpensive and small boat. By following Dave’s excellent guidance in the book I’m sure you will feel a sense of accomplishment in building something useful and enjoyable.
I congratulate Dave on his many accomplishments but especially on the completion of his long term vision to produce an excellent "How-To" book on building cardboard boats. The boats and the book about them are testament to the learning and satisfaction that comes when a person applies himself fully to something about which he is passionate. Dave’s original cardboard boats were designed and built with much more than cardboard and glue. The most important components were passion, hard work, focus and follow-through. I am convinced that if you bring a little of these magic ingredients to your first cardboard boat, it will carry you easily and far across the water.
Michael F. Hein, P.E., Professor
McWorter School of Building Science