2024 Recycle Regatta

5th Annual Recycle Regatta 

Apply the engineering method and help your students become environmental stewards as you repurpose recyclables into seaworthy vessels! Master buoyancy, engineering, and physics obstacles to race your boat creations to victory.

The Recycle Regatta is a free, fun, hands-on competition for K-12 students to participate in from anywhere! Students build a model sailboat from recycled and repurposed materials and race to victory while discovering engineering, mathematics, sailing, buoyancy, and stewardship. Two awards will be given for each fleet, including the fastest and most creative vessels.

Classrooms, boating centers, and community organizations are invited to host their ”Regatta” and submit their students’ entries!


The Recycle Regatta is aligned to:
– Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
– Ocean Literacy Principles (OLP)
– Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL)

While also gaining an appreciation for recycling and stewardship, participating students will walk away from the Recycle Regatta with an increased knowledge of:

– Engineering
– Environmental Conservation
– Mathematics
– SEL skills (Teamwork, Confidence, and Perseverance) 

February 15, 2024
February 15, 2024

Recycle Regatta Opens

The 5th Annual Recycle Regatta begins! Get started by diving into the Teacher Toolkit and online resources for classroom materials and tips for hosting your own regatta.

Post your progress and tag us on social media as you go to share your experience!

April 30, 2024
April 30, 2024

Submissions Due by Midnight

To officially enter the Recycle Regatta, click on the applicable fleet links below. All submissions must be submitted online by April 30 at Midnight EST.

May 2024
May 2024

Winners will be Announced

We will announce the winners via social media and email in May 2024. Be sure to join our Facebook group, follow us on social media, or subscribe to our emails!

Educational Passages FacebookInstagram | LinkedIn | X | YouTube
NESS FacebookInstagram | LinkedIn | X | YouTube
NAMEPA FacebookInstagram | LinkedIn | X | YouTube

“I decided to do Recycle Regatta with multiple grades, and this long project has shown me how creative and unique every student is. Throughout this process, the students are so enthusiastic about every single lesson leading up to the building of the boats. While walking around the room, I heard them collaborating and trying to think through all the uses for the materials they had.

Every class had access to the same materials, and yet they produced 40 entirely unique designs that exceeded all of my expectations. I love being able to facilitate their creativity, and I am so thankful for this opportunity to share my passion for marine science.”

Rules and Guidelines

There are a few guidelines and requirements to follow, and we’ve listed them below. You can also download and print them for easy reference as you engineer your submission:  Click here to Download Full Rules and Guidelines (PDF)

  1. Start by making a blueprint on a scrap piece of paper, or on the Data Form (see last page of this document). Engineers always plan before starting to build! This can be a drawing, list of materials, or a write-up of what you plan to do. Your sailboat submission should be small-scale (less than 40 cm long) and uncrewed.
  2. Gather materials (safely!) that are recycled or discarded. We do not want you to buy materials.
  3. Set up your testing bin, and be sure to note the size, as your boat should fit inside your testing bin and have at least 25 cm left to move. If it is too large, it will be difficult to calculate speed.
  4. Build a prototype, you might end up changing your design and that’s perfectly okay.
  5. Test your design! See how the boat moves, floats, and sails! Does it stay upright? Does it float? If not, change your design until you have the perfect vessel!
  6. Test and document your speed for at least 3 trials. To test speed, place your boat in testing bin with water and markers for a distance (try 1 foot with a ruler). Then create “wind” using your breath by blowing on your boat or using a reusable straw. Document how much time it takes to travel that distance. Submit your best 3 trials on the entry form. Use the formula Speed = Distance/Time to calculate speed. All speed calculations should be done in cm/second. Write down your results.
  7. Improve your design based on the testing process and start the testing process again! Can you make your boat go faster by changing the design?
  8. Submit your entry form by the deadline!

We encourage you to be a steward of the environment in addition to an honorable mariner. Your boat must be built from recycled or discarded materials- i.e. objects that have already been used at least once. The Recycle Regatta team strongly discourages participants to buy new materials for this project. Design is left to engineers! Let your imagination take over. These lists are not all inclusive! Our goal is to convert and repurpose waste to create fantastic boats!

Materials you may use in boat construction:

  • Plastic
  • Cans – aluminum, tin, any that will float
  • Duct tape
  • Cardboard
  • Glue
  • Fishing line
  • Other recyclable/discarded items with positive buoyancy (they float)! Check these guidelines for more information on what can and cannot be recycled.
  • Decorations and crew costumes are allowed and encouraged!

Materials you may not use in boat construction:

  • Wood
  • Rubber
  • Inflatables – raft, pool toys, etc.
  • Fiberglass
  • Caulking compounds
  • Electrical systems
  • Engines – gasoline powered, battery powered, etc.
  • Paint or varnish (can be used for decoration, but not for waterproofing)
  • Raw materials made out of recycled content (Trex decking, etc).

Please read the following carefully. Failure to comply with safety requirements will result in disqualification.

  1. All participating mariners must wear a personal floatation device (PFD) in the water, near the water, or on a dock. If you are testing a boat in a controlled location (such as a bathtub), a PFD is not required, but an adult should be present.
  2. Animals cannot occupy a boat.
  3. Sunken or discarded boats must be recycled if possible.
  4. You must have a means of recovering your vessel after launch, from the surface of the water, or, if your vessel sinks, from Davy Jones’ Locker.
  5. Most importantly, HAVE FUN! Participants are expected to maintain the decorum and dignity expected of a Inappropriate behavior at the discretion of the Recycle Regatta team will not be permitted and will disqualify your entry.
  1. Measure and record a specific distance that you know your boat is able to travel. Mark this distance (ex. tape on the side of the tub/testing bin as a start/finish line). Measure this distance with a ruler, meter stick, tape
    measure, or other device.
  2. Time how long it takes your boat to travel that entire distance!
  3. Speed = Distance/Time. So, if your boat traveled 10 centimeters in 2 seconds, you would set up your equation as 10 centimeters/2 seconds. Your final speed would be 5 cm/second. This answer came from dividing 10/2 and combining the units used. 
  4. Calculate your speed for 3 trials.
  5. Find the average distance, time, and speed! We use averages to summarize a group of data or measurements.
    a. Mean average= total sum of the three trials divided by 3
    b. Let’s look at an example of finding our average distance in cm.
    i. Add together the 3 distances that we measured: 3cm + 7cm + 6cm = 16cm
    ii. Then take that total, and divide it by the number of trials: 16cm/3 trials=5.333cm
    iii. Here you have your average distance, 5.333cm!

Challenge yourself! Convert from speed in cm/second to Knots

Sailors and mariners use a special type of unit to talk about speed. These units are called knots! They take into account nautical miles, which are used in distance measurements out at sea. We’ve given you the conversion formula for knots, if you want to see how your boat would compare to a life size sailing vessel! Knots = Nautical miles per hour

  • Take your speed in cm/second and divide it by 51.4444
  • Speed = 5.333cm/s ➗ 51.4444 =0.1036 knots

The speed in knots might seem small, but remember, you are calculating your speed in nautical miles/hour!


Download the Teacher Toolkit and the Official Rules & Guidelines to help bring the Recycle Regatta into your classroom! Additional educational resources, including videos, are available below.

Calculating Boat Speed

Ocean Currents and Miniboats At Sea

The Engineering Method

Physics of Sailing

Marine Debris


Recycling Practices

The Recycle Regatta aims to involve students in efforts of marine conservation in an enjoyable and innovative way. If this project sparks your interest in keeping our oceans clean, keep reading! It is estimated that eight million metric tons of plastic find their way into our oceans every year. Now, that is a lot of plastic waste! While the whole world is responsible for our oceans, each country must do their part to help clean our waterways. You may be asking what I can do, as one person, to help? Plenty! You’ve probably heard the phrase “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” before, but there are more options to help you along your way into a waste-free life. 

REFUSE The easiest way to help reduce waste anywhere you are is to simply refuse. When you are in the grocery store, you can opt not to use plastic produce or grocery bags. At a coffee shop, you can bring your own reusable mug instead of getting a single-use cup. However, sometimes plastic is unavoidable in our lives, and if that is the case, continue down the list! 

REDUCE Receiving a single-use item is often not an option. For example, a gift or many options at the grocery store. If this is the case for you, try to be conscious of your plastic consumption and make changes where you can! In modern-day society, it’s not realistic for most people to be completely waste-free; however, any small changes will help the world we live in.

REUSE Some single-use items are easier to reuse than others, but if you stay conscious of the types of items you purchase, you may be surprised at what can be reused! For example, items such as jugs and jars, water bottles, paper, and cans can all be reused at least one time before they are recycled.

REPURPOSE A last effort you can make before you send waste off to the recycling bin is to repurpose items into something else. Is there something in your home that you don’t use anymore? Before you throw it away, try to think of a way you can repurpose it! A water bottle or even old boots can be used as planters. Old cans and glass bottles can be repurposed into storage cups or decor. Take any type of plastic and turn it into a sailboat to enter into the Recycle Regatta!

RECYCLE If none of the options listed above are an option, check out the recycling practices in your state! Each state has different regulations when it comes to recycling; some states have strict rules, while others are a bit more relaxed. Remember, if the state you live in isn’t recycling as much as others, you can still use the other four “R’s” to be conscious of your plastic or waste consumption. 

Recycle Regatta Hosts

New England Science & Sailing (NESS) is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization that uses sailing, marine science, powerboating, and ocean adventure sports as experiential learning platforms to increase K-12 academic outcomes. NESS educators teach in classrooms and on the water, using over 100 proprietary lesson plans tied to school standards, including the Next Generation Science Standards, Ocean Literacy Principles, and Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning standards. NESS is the only school partner program accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. For more information, visit NESSF.org.

Educational Passages is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to inspire ocean stewardship through unique global experiences. Participants connect through the building, launching and tracking of six foot long unmanned and satellite equipped “miniboats” that sail themselves to distant shores. To learn more about Educational Passages and its Miniboat Program, visit educationalpassages.org/start.  

The North American Marine Environment Protection Association (NAMEPA) is a marine industry-led organization of environmental stewards preserving the marine environment by promoting sustainable marine industry best practices and educating seafarers, students, and the public about the need and strategies for protecting global ocean, lake, and river resources.  For more information, visit NAMEPA.net.


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