Power Boat Design
A Design Exploration for Upper Level Students
New initiatives in design and technology can influence school staff collaboration.
This activity, Power Boat Design, is excerpted from a unit presented in Technology Science
Mathematics (TSM) Connection Activities, a curriculum of integrated design projects for
grades 6 and up, published by Glencoe/McGraw Hill.
This design project brings together science, mathematics, and technology,
allowing in-depth exploration of design principles and the underlying mathematics
and science that support them. Science units on buoyancy, Newton's Laws of
Motion, and Archimedes' Principle are relevant to the boat's design and function.
In mathematics, students need an understanding of surface area, volume, and
symmetry as well as skills in graphing to complete the design, construction, and
testing of their boats. Student designers also learn about energy conversion,
boat hull design, drag, tools, and materials. The variety of options - materials,
hull shapes, propulsion systems - assures that a selection of different boats will
emerge from the design process.
Designing a Power Boat
Middle or high school students are challenged to design a
self-propelled toy boat. They must choose boat materials, determine hull shape
and a propulsion system, build the model, and conduct a variety of tests and
measures to design an efficient craft. The following activity, one component of
the design process, tests the boat's hull for efficiency and buoyancy.
The students will float their boats in a 2 m (6.5')-long trough filled
with water to 1 cm (1/2 in) from the top. A plastic roof gutter, sealed to hold
water, works well for this test. A pulley attached to one end of the gutter is
threaded with a length of string weighted with a 150 g (5.25 oz) block. The
string attaches to a boat's hull and the weight drags
the boat through the water. A start and finish line mark the distance for timing
and a stopwatch records the speed. A photogate sensor provides a more technical
option for recording the speeds.*
Presenting the Problem
Design constraints for constructing the boat:
- A variety of materials may be used, including wood, plastic, or metal.
Styrofoam[TM] blocks can be used. Porous materials, like wood sheet stock, need a
coating to reduce water absorption. Coatings can make the hull smoother, reducing
friction, and increasing performance.
- The boat can be no bigger that 8 cm (3.1") wide and 23 cm (9") long.
- The boat can have no pointed, sharp, or loose parts that might injure children.
The Design Portfolio
Require the design
teams to document their work in a portfolio with the following materials:
- information gathered from resources;
- drawings of all possible hull designs, providing views from the side, top, and bottom;
- tables, charts, or graphs showing how the boat performed;
- illustrations or descriptions of the science and mathematics principles used to design the boat;
- all technology, science, and mathematics work completed during the activity;
- notes made along the way.
* A photogate sensor is not essential to this activity. For further information
about this tool, see page 8.
The complete 48-page Power Boat activity (ISBN: 0-02-636952-4) is available from
Glencoe/McGraw Hill for $3.21 plus postage and handling. The complete binder
(ISBN: 0-02-636947-8) with six activities is available for $61.98 plus postage
and handling. For information call 1-800-334-7344.
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