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How Much Weight Can Aluminum Foil Boats Float?

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Active Time
45 minutes to 1 hour
Total Project Time
45 minutes to 1 hour
Key Concepts
boats, density, volume, floating

Introduction

Have you ever wondered how a ship made of steel can float? If you drop a steel bolt in a bucket of water, the bolt quickly sinks to the bottom. Then how can a steel ship float? And better yet, how can a steel ship carry a heavy load without sinking? It has to do with the density, or the mass per volume, of the ship (and its cargo) compared to the density of water. In this science activity, you will make little "boats" out of aluminum foil to explore how their size affects how much weight they carry and how this relates to the density of water.

Credits

Teisha Rowland, PhD, Science Buddies
This activity is not appropriate for use as a science fair project. Good science fair projects have a stronger focus on controlling variables, taking accurate measurements, and analyzing data. To find a science fair project that is just right for you, browse our library of over 1,200 Science Fair Project Ideas or use the Topic Selection Wizard to get a personalized project recommendation.

Materials

• Aluminum foil
• Ruler
• Tape
• Scrap piece of paper and pen or pencil
• Rag or paper towels
• Pennies. You may need as many as 200 pennies, depending on the size and shape of the boats you make.
• Calculator
• Optional: Dry rice and measuring cup
• Bucket, tub, sink, or dishpan
• Water

Reviews

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Active Time
45 minutes to 1 hour
Total Project Time
45 minutes to 1 hour
Key Concepts
boats, density, volume, floating