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In this design challenge activity, learners build a boat that can hold 25 pennies (or 15 one inch metal washers) for at least ten seconds before sinking. This competitive, hands-on activity introduces learners to the concepts of buoyancy and water displacement.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per student

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Model

English, Spanish

Materials List (per student)

  • container filled with water (e.g., bucket, sink, plastic tub)
  • duct tape
  • paper cups (8-ounce or larger)
  • 10-inch strip of plastic wrap
  • 10 straws
  • towels (paper or cloth)
  • 25 pennies (or 15 standard, flat steel washers, at least 1 inch in diameter)


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Structure
      • Oceans and Water
  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Transportation Engineering
  • Physical Sciences
    • States of Matter
      • Liquids
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Mass and Weight
      • Volume and Density
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Invention and Innovation
      • Problem Solving
      • Troubleshooting and Maintenance

Informal Categories

  • Model Building
  • Transportation


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


Source Collection

  • Design Squad Nation


Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation, 0810996