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Boats Afloat

Source Institutions

    National Aeronautics and Space Administration

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Boats Afloat

In this activity, learners discover what buoyancy is and determine the characteristics that make an object buoyant. Learners design, build, test, and evaluate boats made from a variety of materials. Learners are encouraged to repeat this process using different designs and materials. In an optional extension learners can discover what happens if they test their boats in saltwater.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 11

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity


Materials List (per group of students)

  • various lightweight materials (i.e., foam trays, cups, straws, paper plates, toothpicks)
  • various weighted materials (i.e., pennies, rocks, paper clips)
  • large basin, sink, or inflatable pool
  • tap water
  • scale
  • science journals


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Manufacturing Engineering
      • Metallurgy and Materials Engineering
      • Transportation Engineering
  • Mathematics
    • Geometry
  • Physical Sciences
    • Motion and Forces
      • Gravity
    • States of Matter
      • Solids
      • Liquids
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Volume and Density
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Research and Development
      • Problem Solving
      • Troubleshooting and Maintenance

Informal Categories

  • Model Building


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • NASA Center for Distance Learning, Office of Education at NASA’s Langley Research Center


  • All Rights Reserved, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, ©2004


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