Activity

# Design a Boat

## Students with visual impairments design a boat to hold a large amount of mass.

### Purpose:

With properties of matter in mind, students with visual impairments will design a boat that will hold as much weight as possible.

### Background Information:

Density measures the amount of matter in a given volume of an object. To find the density of an object, divide the object’s mass by its volume (D = m/v). Density is a physical property, which means it is same for one substance, no matter how much of a substance is measured. Fresh water always has a density of 1g per cubic centimeter; a cup of water in your hand and water from an entire river has same density.

A buoyant object floats. Buoyancy is also a physical property. Whether an object floats or sinks in liquid depends on the object’s density. If the object’s density is less than the density of the liquid, it will float. If the object’s density is greater than the liquid’s density, it will sink. Then, how does a ship, made of dense iron, float in water? Although iron is denser than water, a ship is not a solid chunk of metal. It has a lot of rooms and empty area filled with air. Therefore, a ship has a much lower density than a solid piece of metal the size of the ship. This makes the ship’s density less than water’s density.

### Materials

• aluminum foil
• clay
• tub with water
• metric ruler
• pennies
• scale

### Preparation

Shaping the boat either in clay or aluminum foil is a tactile task. Students may need to practice a variety of shapes and methods to develop the most efficient design.

### Procedure

1. You will try to design a boat that will carry the most cargo (pennies) before sinking. Your choice of material will be clay or aluminum foil. Consider which material would be the best for your boat.
2. Consider different boat designs to determine which design would be the best. Construct your model boat.
3. Measure its length, width, and height in centimeters. Approximately, what is the density of your boat?
4. Measure the mass of your cargo (pennies). Measure the mass of 10 pennies. Then, you will be able to figure out the mass of 1 penny, 5 pennies, 20 pennies, etc.
5. Test your boat design by floating it in a tub of water without pennies. According to your measurements, how many pennies do you think your boat will hold?
7. Compare the result with the estimation you made in step 5. Were they close? If not, why do you think the estimation was different from the result?

### Variations

If the student has not yet learned about mass and volume:

• Mass: Mass is the amount of matter in an object. Weight is different from mass. Weight may change depending on location, but mass never changes. Weight measures the pull of gravity on an object. If a person goes up to the top of the mountain, his weight will be less, because the pull of gravity on him is less. However, his mass will not change.
• Volume: Volume is the amount of space that an object takes up. Volume = Length x Width x Height.

### NGSS Standards

PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter

• Measurements of a variety of properties can be used to identify materials. (Boundary: At this grade level, mass and weight are not distinguished, and no attempt is made to define the unseen particles or explain the atomic-scale mechanism of evaporation and condensation.)

ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems

• Possible solutions to a problem are limited by available materials and resources (constraints). The success of a designed solution is determined by considering the desired features of a solution (criteria). Different proposals for solutions can be compared on the basis of how well each one meets the specified criteria for success or how well each takes the constraints into account. (3-5-ETS1-1)

ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions

• Research on a problem should be carried out before beginning to design a solution. Testing a solution involves investigating how well it performs under a range of likely conditions. (3-5-ETS1-2)
• At whatever stage, communicating with peers about proposed solutions is an important part of the design process, and shared ideas can lead to improved designs. (3-5-ETS1-2)
• Tests are often designed to identify failure points or difficulties, which suggest the elements of the design that need to be improved. (3-5-ETS1-3)

ETS1.C: Optimizing the Design Solution

• Different solutions need to be tested in order to determine which of them best solves the problem, given the criteria and the constraints. (3-5-ETS1-3)

### Resources

Scott Foresman Science, Diamond Edition, Grade 5 Pearson Education, Inc. by Timothy Cooney, Jim Cummins et al., 2010, pages 344-363.

Adapted by Yoo Jin Chung and Kate Fraser