What floats your boat and for how long are some of the questions that students in the gifted program at Oak Park tried to answer during a recent field trip to the Decatur AquaDome. Students in Dr. Gillespie's Talented and Gifted (TAG) program spent several weeks learning to build cardboard boats, using the engineering design process to create boat models from manila paper, and tweaking their final designs. Boat construction rules included:
1) the ENTIRE boat must be built of cardboard, caulking, and polyurethane
2) the crew compartment can NOT be enclosed so as to interfere with escape
3) liquid concrete must be used as the fastening material, and
4) decorations are allowed as long as they don't affect the structural strength or buoyancy.
In the end, students learned that "wider is better" and that consideration must be given to the center of buoyancy. Simple box shapes outlasted slanted box shapes, while outriggers were more difficult to steer. It was all great fun and the physics/engineering concepts and teamwork skills that students developed are sure to be remembered in years to come.