Simple Submarine

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Using simple, inexpensive items, learners build and test submarine models. They gain insight into the engineering that's required to make these machines ascend, descend, and hover safely in extreme environments. The printable eight-page handout includes: a series of inquiry-based questions that get learners thinking about the complex engineering required for submersibles; illustrated experiment directions; and a worksheet that includes thought-provoking questions along with areas for recording experiment data.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$10 - $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Model


Materials List (per group of students)

  • 35-mm plastic film canisters and lids (required)
  • safety pins and straight pins
  • duct tape (the only kind that will stick)
  • glue gun and glue sticks
  • aluminum foil, plastic bags, etc.
  • tank, e.g., a small aquarium
  • metal nuts, screws, washers, and nails
  • Styrofoam peanuts
  • sand
  • balloons
  • small paper bags
  • pennies
  • Alka-Seltzer tablets
  • toothpicks
  • paper clips


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Structure
      • Oceans and Water
  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Ocean Engineering
  • Mathematics
    • Representation
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Research and Development
      • Invention and Innovation
      • Troubleshooting and Maintenance
  • Physical Sciences
    • Motion and Forces
      • Gravity
    • States of Matter
      • Liquids
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Volume and Density
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • About Inquiry
      • Asking Questions
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Model Building
  • Nature and Environment
  • Transportation


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All rights reserved, American Museum of Natural History, 2002