Design, Build and Race Your Own Propeller

The Black Magic of Propeller Design Revealed

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Ever want to try your hand at propeller design? Last June 150 participants did just that at the Marine Industry Day in Fort Lauderdale. Given just thin copper square blanks and a few tools, contestants ranging from middle-school kids to marine industry professionals built propellers for 24-inch-long radio controlled boats. Then they raced them in side-by-side heats in 40-foot tracks made from rain gutters. "We had 10 year old kids racing against — and sometimes beating — naval architects," says Jimmie Harrison, a past president of the National Marine Propeller Association. "Even me, as a propeller expert, I was surprised by which propellers won. We had boats that went backward, some wouldn't plane, a few had too much propeller torque, which made the boats roll over and sink. It was hilariously fun chaos."

While Marine Industry day will be held again in June, this year's Build a Propeller Race will instead be combined with the Plywood Regatta coordinated by the Marine Industries Association of South Florida and scheduled for the weekend of April 11 and 12 in Whiskey Creek near the Dania Pier in Dania Beach, Florida. On Saturday, around three dozen teams, each comprised of six to eight middle school, high school or marine technical school kids, will be given a few sheets of plywood, tie wraps and 3M 5200 to construct a boat, and then race them in elimination heats on Sunday morning. Those same teams will also be given, on Saturday, copper squares and tools to build radio-controlled boat propellers. Elimination drag races will be held immediately before the start of the Plywood Regatta on Sunday morning. Attendance is free. Sponsors of both events include 3M, Cable Marine, Frank and Jimmie's Propeller, Gold Coast Marine Distributors, Interlux, Marine Max, Neptune Boat Lifts, TGL Environmental and Westport Yachts, with proceeds going toward college scholarships for local kids pursuing marine engineering or marine-trade related degrees. "This is a great way to reach out to kids and the community with something fun while also educating them about marine trade jobs," says Harrison, who is also a MIASF board member. This year's Marine Industries Day, which is a chance for area residents to learn more about marine businesses and boating in South Florida, will be on June 20, once again at Esplanade Park along Fort Lauderdale's downtown riverfront. Kids' activities include face painting, a treasure hunt and marine-life educational activities. Food venders will be on hand as well.