To Float or not to Float

After learning some basic ideas about mass, volume, and density (as well as concepts in ship design), student teams were challenged to float two cans of water on a boat built out of wood and aluminum foil for one minute. Teams measured the volume of their boat designs and divided it into the mass represented by the two cans - this would give them a density number that would predict if their boat would float.

The remaining challenge was about design. Students had learned that one of the Titanic's problematic flaws was that its hull was composed of metal sheets attached by weak rivets. So students kept this in mind as they covered their boat frames with aluminum foil, minimizing seams wherever they could.

Our final competition was great fun. The previous school record of 19 cans was beaten by three different teams in this year's class - each of which had a boat filled with 24 cans of water! We also had fun with a theme competition - boats won awards such as "Best Pirate Ship," "Most Beautiful," and even "It's Complicated"!

Rich Seymour
Middle School Science