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Ships Ahoy!

Source Institutions

    Museum of Science, Boston

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Ships Ahoy!

The goal of this activity is to design the fastest sailboat or one that carries the most treasure. Using simple, colorful, and recycled materials, learners design and build a model vessel to achieve the optimal use of wind power. This is a fun, hands-on activity that reinforces the engineering design cycle. Learners can apply their knowledge and understanding of wind power, buoyancy, displacement, friction, and lift to their sailboat design. [Activity is publicly available through a web crawler capture on]

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 6 - 18

Resource Type:


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Boat hulls
  • K’NEX (for masts)
  • Foam shapes (for sails)
  • Plastic clips
  • Gems


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Structure
      • Oceans and Water
  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Mechanical Engineering
      • Metallurgy and Materials Engineering
      • Transportation Engineering
    • Technology
      • Transportation
      • Construction
  • Mathematics
    • Measurement
      • Rate
  • Physical Sciences
    • Energy
    • Motion and Forces
      • Momentum and Velocity
      • Acceleration
    • States of Matter
      • Solids
      • Liquids
      • Gases
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Mass and Weight
      • Volume and Density
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Research and Development
      • Invention and Innovation
      • Problem Solving
      • Troubleshooting and Maintenance

Informal Categories

  • Transportation


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

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


Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • Museum of Science, Boston, 2010

Funding Source:

  • The Gordon Foundation


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