STEM Challenge for Summer with Buoyancy – Design a Submersible

STEM Challenge for Summer: Design a Submersible!

This is one of the more challenge STEM activities I have done with kids over the years! It’s also perfect for summer because you will get wet!

Warning: You WILL Get Wet with this STEM Challenge

Why try this challenge? I can’t even tell you how many boat challenges I have done with kids, asking for a simple craft that floats, something that can be propelled with wind (sailboat), and so on.
You have probably also done “Does it sink or float?” activities with your students over the years.
This challenge is a combination of all those!
What if we want an object to not sink,
but to float,
but not at the surface and rather about halfway between the bottom of a body of water and the top?

Gather Materials for Submersible STEM

First, gather all materials needed for the challenge:

For the water:
You will need a tub, storage bin, kiddie pool, etc. for this challenge. You will also need to fill the bin with water.
Students can create their submersibles with aluminum foil, popsicle sticks, plastic egg carton pieces, balloons, rubber bands, recyclables, pennies or small weights, etc.
Your students can start in one of two ways:
  • With an object that floats, that they will need to make LESS buoyant.
  • With an object that sinks, that they will need to make MORE buoyant.

Go Deeper with Science in this STEM Challenge

Have your students research density and buoyancy. Ask:

How does the density of an object affect its buoyancy?

When might you want a water vessel to NOT be completely buoyant?

What skills do students work on? In addition to following the Engineering Design Process to complete this challenge, students will need to work together and may need to make several modifications to improve their sail designs.

Add more rigor into this activity and download printables for students to use with the STEM challenge resource (or get the pack of Summer STEM challenges) on Teachers pay Teachers (also includes sand castle STEM and a squirrel proof bird feeder):

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