gator science

active adventures in lower school science

Designing the Best Sail

on October 13, 2014

3rd graders worked hard over the last few classes testing and redesigning their sails.  We used a large box fan and tested a sail that was attached to the Styrofoam boat sitting on a track of fishing line.  We looked at how fast and how far the sail boat traveled across the track. Students experimented with different shaped sails.  Taller sails seemed to work best and had an easier time catching the wind.  Plastic was a light material, but worked very well in the wind when it was reinforced with coffee stir rods.  A number of students used an entire plastic bag and used it as a “jib” for the sail to catch the wind from behind.  Each class had wonderfully creative designs that evolved during the two class periods. One of the students exclaimed at the end of the class, “I love problem solving.”   Using this knowledge from different sail designs,  the third grade class will be designing and building windmills.

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2 responses to “Designing the Best Sail

  1. How did the students attach the sail to the boat bottom?

    • ddelduca5 says:

      To make the bottom of the sailboat I cut a rectangular piece of styrofoam and attached two straws to glide over the fishing line. I cut a hole into the rectangular piece of styrofoam with a craft stick. I cut two small squares of styrofoam and made a small incision with the craft stick. I taped each styrofoam square on the top and bottom of the rectangular base. Now there are three layers of styrofoam instead of one. You can now insert the craft stick at the bottom of the sail and it will stay firmly in the hole. If it craft stick incision becomes worn and wiggly, you can use tape to secure the sail. You can also replace to the rectangular pieces of styrofoam to strengthen the base, too. It was a fun lab for the kids and gave the kids a chance to be creative by changing three variables – shape, size, and material used. Good Luck – let me know if you try this out.

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