Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Aluminum Boats, Pennies and Archimedes

A 10cm x 10cm piece of aluminum foil, 30cm x 1.9cm length of scotch tape and a handful of pennies, now figure out what makes a battleship float.

For five years now, I have utilized aluminum boat building as a means of having students discover he principles of buoyancy.  Students work collaboratively to create an aluminum foil boat that will float while supporting the greatest number of pennies without sinking.  Each students is given three 10cm x 10cm pieces of aluminum foil and three 30cm pieces of tape to design three boats.  Each boat will be placed in a tub of water.  Students will test the buoyancy of their design by adding pennies to the boat until the boat sinks.

Students collaborate to evaluate and critique each boat for the effectiveness as a penny cargo ship.  Typically students will work in lab groups of four or five members and will evaluate the buoyancy principles of as many as 15 different designs.  Students collect data on the mass of the boats, mass of the pennies, surface area of the boat and water displacement.  Utilizing this information they can work through what makes an object float and associate these concepts using Archimedes Principles.

Students experience research and design concepts in a very simple lab while applying the physics concepts for buoyancy that allow an air craft carrier or cruise ship to float.


Anonymous said...

how do you make the boat?! please help!!


Students come up with their own designs. There is no one way to do this.

Anonymous said...


Aluminum Boats, Pennies and Archimedes ?