Sailing Away with Sailboats in the STEM Lab!

I never could have predicted how much STEM kids love to make boats. Building boats is one of the first projects we tackled a few years ago and they loved it so much.

But, the boats we built were not sailboats. That didn't seem to matter to some of the groups, however. They built a mast and sail anyway.

That got me to thinking.... could we try sailboats? What would make them move?
STEM Challenge: Build a sailboat that will float and travel with the wind!

STRAWS?

I did think about having the kids use straws and blow their boats through the water.

Then I remembered how icky that is. The straws get full of spit. Because they are kids. But, just imagine how gross that is to see spit spraying from the end of the straw onto the boats or into the water pan.

Yuck!

So, I brought a fan to school and that worked perfectly. We had to learn how to aim it to get the best "wind" and we also learned the highest speed on the fan's setting made the boats turn over!

First Grade Sailboats

Nothing fancy with the smallest engineers. We used pool noodles because I knew they would float. Kids held the noodles together with toothpicks and tape. The mast is a straw and we used paper sails. 

Take a look at these:
STEM Challenge: Build a sailboat that will float and travel with the wind!
I meant for them to use the toothpicks to connect the pool noodles. Kids thought the toothpicks made great decorations! Or even the sail!

Eventually, we started using foam sheets for the sails instead of construction paper. First graders would cheer when their boats sailed away!

Third Grade Sailboats

I knew foil was a great material for boats and this is one of the items third graders could choose. They also had pieces of cardboard.

The cardboard was mostly to make a stable base, but the real dilemma was protecting the cardboard from getting wet.
STEM Challenge: Build a sailboat that will float and travel with the wind!

The one above worked great because they made sides on their boat. The tiny plastic cup turned out to be a way to tape the mast in place.

STEM Challenge: Build a sailboat that will float and travel with the wind!

Below is another team that relied on the foil for everything! Even the sail is made of foil.

STEM Challenge: Build a sailboat that will float and travel with the wind!

This is such a fun building project. There are many problems to solve and kids have to constantly repair the boats. As soon as one takes on water they have to go back and find the leak and fix it. I keep a roll of paper towels beside the water pan and leave real towels on each work table.

STEM Challenge: Build a sailboat that will float and travel with the wind!

The photos below even show the water rippling as the boat is sailing. We did have races with these boats! Two teams placed their boat at the end of the water pan and let go, I turned on the fan, and off they went. Boats that crashed into each other created some groaning and then some cheering as one would break away and take off.

STEM Challenge: Build a sailboat that will float and travel with the wind!
Try some boats soon! Your kids will love them.

Some Hints:
  • My water pan is a long under-the-bed storage container.
  • Buy foil sheets at the Dollar Tree. They are pre-cut and it saves lots of time.
  • Have fun-it's just water!



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