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Ambitious student building a sailboat

UW-P junior takes on a challenging project for an engineering class.

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Hayley Cullen

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Posted: Monday, February 10, 2014 12:00 am | Updated: 7:15 am, Mon Feb 10, 2014.

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. -- Growing up in Appleton, Hayley Cullen spent numerous summers boating at nearby 137,700-acre Lake Winnebago.

"My dad has been sailing forever, and he threw me into sailing school at age 9," she said.

Cullen, 21, is hooked.

"It's really quiet, relaxing, slow and you basically get to go where you want," she said. "I don't like speeding around."

A third-year University of Wisconsin-Platteville student, Cullen took her interest in sailing a step further. She's building a fiberglass sailboat, as part of a class project.

"I wanted something I would use," she said. "I like boats, and I just wanted to build one for a learning experience."

The learning experience was part of Cullen's synthetic and composite materials class.

"My roommate was telling me I was crazy," she said. "It's just a stupid idea. I look back at it and think, 'How am I going to get this done?' Hopefully it gets done. I'll make time."

Having spent more than 150 hours building it, the 11-foot-long, 1 1/2-foot-wide craft is built for solo sailing.

"It will fly out of the water," Cullen said.

She admits the project has been an interesting challenge, in part, because she's never before worked with composite materials, like fiberglass.

Majid Tabrizi, Cullen's instructor for the synthetic and composite materials class, is impressed.

"As a teacher, I have the privilege of interacting with a number of talented students every day of my life," he said. "One of the most noticeable students was a female student named Hayley Cullen. She is a young bright student who has joined a male-dominated professional engineering field. One of her most noticeable characteristics is that she approached the selection of her project based on her skills and talents and not on her gender."

A mechanical engineering major with a minor in metals (processing technology), Cullen agrees.

"I really like to build things," she said. "I'm interested in design and the way things work."

Cullen has no idea where her career path will lead. "Hopefully, somewhere successful," she said. "I don't have a game plan yet. I'm taking it one day at a time."

Tabrizi does.

"Today the competitive market emphasizes the sense of ingenuity," he said. "The way she is devoted to the success in her project is an indicator of where she'll go."

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