A team of Sidney students have used their academic skills to get round the age-old problem of Sidney not being beside the River Cam to allow punting during the May Ball.

The team designed a large lake which occupied the greater part of the two front courts of the College and and joined them together with two canals through linking corridors to allow punts to take tours around a circular loop between the courtyards.

The key challenges were to ensure that a temporary structure could be erected and dismantled in a few days which was thoroughly watertight and which could withstand punting poles, which are used to 'power' the punts, digging into the bottom surface. However, the task of overcoming such engineering challenges were met by the team, which was led by an Engineering student, Rob Weatherup, and a Natural Scientist, Adam Lawrance-Owen.

An initial design using a double-skinned lining was put to the test in a small-scale mock up, and 'tested to destruction' to understand how much wear the waterproof skin could endure and to test methods for carrying out underwater repairs, if needed. The results of this test meant that the team were confident of success when scaled up to the real lake. With appropriate liaison with Cambridge Water and Anglia Water regarding filling and emptying the lake, the plan was put into practice by a team of ten in the few days leading up to the May Ball.

The result was clearly spectacular and formed a breathtaking centrepiece to the celebration of a year of hard work.

It will be a hard act to follow, but with new students arriving every year with ever more ingenious ideas, the sky may really be the limit!

This is an archived news story, first posted in 2010.

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