From Deliverance to Digital Technology: 400 Years of technological innovation

What does the ship Deliverance and the history of shipbuilding in Bermuda have to do with digital technology? Patrick Mahon, Head of Design Technology at Saltus and a group of SGY1 students embarked on a project recently to link the two concepts. “The project all started when our students decided to construct a 10’ dinghy” shared Mr. Mahon. This was not the first boat that had made in the department (the previous one was auctioned at a recent event for financial aid), but it was the first for these students.

Mr. Mahon continued, “But it is vitally important that you understand we are not just building a boat here. That would just be utilising and learning practical skills. Do not get me wrong, these are important skills for students to master, but this project is so much more than that. Anyone who has built anything will know how important it is that everything is cut to the correct size. But how do you do that when the sides are not straight? When there are organic shapes involved? When getting it wrong could cost money and possibly jeopardise the whole project? The answer is technical drawing and mathematics, a key cornerstone of this project.”

The project goes further still, for example, the lesson started the other day with the question, “imagine that you are on a lake in your boat and in the boat, there is a large, heavy rock. You decide to throw the rock overboard. Does the lake rise or fall?” This is a question around buoyance, the application of the physics and Archimedes principle (if you are wondering, it falls).

“Practical skills, mathematical and scientific understanding is a key element of the project, but it is important, when building a boat, not to negate Bermuda’s rich sea faring legacy and history” stated Mr. Mahon. “This led us to the question; how did the survivours of the Sea Venture manage to build a seaworthy ship (the Deliverance) which sailed to Virginia ten months after being wrecked on the reefs off Bermuda in July 1609?”

In order to answer this question Mr. Mahon worked with Dr. Derek Tully to arrange a field trip to St. George’s to meet craftsman, Mr. David Chew who not only maintains the model of Deliverance but is very knowledgeable about its history. When the students arrived, Mr. Chew explained how the hull and ribs of Deliverance were shaped. “Remember that Sea Venture was a Flagship that had skilled carpenters on board and they were able to salvage their tools from the wreck.”

Mr. Chew pointed over to Towne Square in St. George. “The whole Island was covered in Cedar trees, so they used their basic saws to cut down trees for the size of the keel which was required.” One of the students noted how Mr. Chew “explained how the curved branches of the Cedar trees were used for shapes such as the bow section of Deliverance and that it made sense to use natural shapes wherever possible.”

Students also acknowledged the similarities between the pulleys on Deliverance and the yacht alongside the dock in the St. George’s harbour as well as the various types of knots. “The pulleys on the yacht were made from modern materials but served the same function as those designed over 400 years ago.”

This is just one of a number of projects undertaken by design technology at Saltus that combine practical skills with scientific and mathematical principles. Mr. Mahon explained that they do their best to make the projects challenging, rewarding and relevant, following the basic principles of project-based learning. Saltus projects are often on public display, so please be on the lookout!

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