|“Real World” Class|
kids put a fresh face on the venerable family runabout.
By George L. Petrie — November 2001
On first hearing of the project, I reacted with skepticism at the very least. In fact I was downright cynical. A group of students at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) had taken on a yearlong design project to conceive, design, and construct a 21-foot motorboat. The requirements called for an innovative runabout accommodating a typical family of four, suitable for a variety of fun-in-the-sun watersports, weekend outings, and an occasional camping trip.
SCAD? Scam would be more like it, I fumed. First of all, the design of a 21-foot family runabout struck me as, shall we say, a relatively mature concept. It's the backbone of the model line for dozens of high-powered production builders who have had professional design staffs refining their craft over the course of many years. If there were breakthroughs to be made, surely the big guns in the industry would have seen them long ago. What did these students hope to achieve, besides rehashing what the production builders had been doing for years and picking up a few college credits for their effort?
Moreover, there was the vexing fact that the students had no training in naval architecture--or in any field of engineering for that matter. As students pursuing degrees in the field of product design, maybe they could conjure some futuristic sketches of what a boat might look like, but would they come up with anything practical? Could they build it? Would it actually work? And how in the world had they enlisted the support of such an impressive roster of corporate sponsors?
My misgivings were completely dispelled within moments of meeting Professor Tom Gattis, director of SCAD's Product Design Department and the man who spearheaded the project. A youthful, bearded teacher who could easily pass as one of his own students, Gattis quickly launched into enthusiastic discourse on the project, liberally praising his student's ambition and creativity. But what convinced me that the students were onto something special was the scale model they had built. It was packed with features I had never seen, nor even imagined; features that had evolved from taking a fresh look at what the boat was really intended to do and developing solutions that were not hamstrung by past practices.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.