How can we build a boat with 4 paper cups, a square of plastic wrap, 10 plastic straws, and a strip of duct tape? This is the challenge we recently put to the 8th grade physics class. To make things even more exciting, we held a little competition–which boat could hold the most pennies before capsizing?
The goals of this challenge were to:
1. Give the boys an experience using the design thinking process with constraints. In this case, the constraints were the materials and limited time (prototypes were built in a mere 30 minutes).
2. Demonstrate their understanding of the concepts of buoyancy and density in a novel situation.
Check out the winning boat below, which managed to hold 350 pennies!