Soapy Boat

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Learners discover that soap can be used to power a boat. Learners make a simple, flat boat model, put it in water, and then add a drop of detergent at the back of the boat. The soap changes the water's surface tension and movement of water molecules propels the boat forward. In this water-based activity, learners explore how soap changes the surface tension of water.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per student

Age Range:
Ages 4 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Model


Materials List (per student)

  • 3 X 5 card, cardboard, or light balsa wood for “boat material”
  • Scissors
  • Printout of boat shape from PDF
  • Water
  • Liquid dish detergent


  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Chemical Reactions
      • Solutions
    • Motion and Forces
      • Momentum and Velocity
      • Acceleration
    • States of Matter
      • Liquids

Informal Categories

  • Model Building
  • Toys
  • Transportation


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All rights reserved, The Regents of the University of California, 2009