STEM Challenge for Spring: Harness the Wind with a Sailboat
A multifaceted STEM challenge that can be done outside on a nice day!
Warning: You May Get Wet with this STEM Challenge
Why try this challenge? In addition to creating something that is useful, students will be honing their spacial reasoning and mathematics skills while designing and creating their garden box. It may even inspire your students to create a full sized garden bed where they can plant their favorite flowers, plants, or vegetables.
Gather Materials for Sailboat STEM
First, gather all materials needed for the challenge:
You will need a tub, storage bin, kiddie pool, etc. for this challenge. You will also need a desk fan to supply the wind. Please use caution operating the fan near the water. You can partition the container to have racing lanes if you want to let your students race the boats. I used a piece of pipe insulation. Students can create their boats with aluminum foil, popsicle sticks, plastic egg carton pieces, etc. They will need to use material for a sail and mount it to their boat. Not only does the boat need to float, it also needs to move forward with the wind.
Go Deeper with Science in this STEM Challenge
Have your students research drag and buoyancy. Ask:
Where is drag advantageous, and when do engineers try to avoid it?
When might you want a water vessel to NOT be 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.