Grade Range
6th-8th
Group Size
2 students
Active Time
60 minutes
Total Time
60 minutes
Area of Science
Aerodynamics & Hydrodynamics
Key Concepts
Weight, volume, density, stability
Learning Objectives
  • Understand how a real-world problem can be solved through engineering
  • Apply the engineering design process to iteratively improve a design
Credits
Ben Finio, PhD, Science Buddies
EPAM volunteer group

Overview

People have used boats to transport things around the world for thousands of years. Unfortunately, those boats can be vulnerable to stormy seas and they can capsize. This lesson expands on the classic "aluminum foil boat" project. Normally, students would build a boat from a sheet of aluminum foil and see how much weight it can hold—in still water—before sinking. In this project, they will find out how well their boats hold up to waves!

NGSS Alignment

This lesson helps students prepare for these Next Generation Science Standards Performance Expectations:
  • MS-ETS1-1. Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.
  • MS-ETS1-2. Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
  • MS-ETS1-3. Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.
  • MS-ETS1-4. Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.
This lesson focuses on these aspects of NGSS Three Dimensional Learning:

Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Asking Questions and Defining Problems. Define a design problem that can be solved through the development of an object, tool, process or system and include multiple criteria and constraints, including scientific knowledge that may limit possible solutions.

Developing and Using Models. Evaluate limitations of a model for a proposed object or tool.

Engaging in Argument from Evidence. Evaluate competing design solutions based on jointly developed and agreed-upon design criteria.
PS2.A: Forces and Motion. The motion of an object is determined by the sum of the forces acting on it; if the total force on the object is not zero, its motion will change. The greater the mass of the object, the greater the force needed to achieve the same change in motion. For any given object, a larger force causes a larger change in motion.

ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems. The more precisely a design task's criteria and constraints can be defined, the more likely it is that the designed solution will be successful. Specification of constraints includes consideration of scientific principles and other relevant knowledge that are likely to limit possible solutions.

ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions. A solution needs to be tested, and then modified on the basis of the test results, in order to improve it.
Sometimes parts of different solutions can be combined to create a solution that is better than any of its predecessors.

ETS1.C: Optimizing the Design Solutions. The iterative process of testing the most promising solutions and modifying what is proposed on the basis of the test results leads to greater refinement and ultimately to an optimal solution.
Influence of Science, Engineering, and Technology on Society and the Natural World. The uses of technologies and limitations on their use are driven by individual or societal needs, desires, and values; by the findings of scientific research; and by differences in such factors as climate, natural resources, and economic conditions.

Structure and Function. Structures can be designed to serve particular functions by taking into account properties of different materials, and how materials can be shaped and used.

Stability and Change. Stability might be disturbed either by sudden events or gradual changes that accumulate over time.

Materials


A meter stick, plastic container, water, aluminum foil, pennies and a rubber ball
  • Aluminum foil
  • Large plastic tubs (more tubs will allow more students to test at once)
  • Towels
  • Uniform small objects to use as "cargo." You can use whatever you have available: coins, marbles, beans, etc.
  • Meter stick
  • Object to drop to create waves, like a rock or heavy ball

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Grade Range
6th-8th
Group Size
2 students
Active Time
60 minutes
Total Time
60 minutes
Area of Science
Aerodynamics & Hydrodynamics
Key Concepts
Weight, volume, density, stability
Credits
Ben Finio, PhD, Science Buddies
EPAM volunteer group
Learning Objectives
  • Understand how a real-world problem can be solved through engineering
  • Apply the engineering design process to iteratively improve a design
Free science fair projects.