Jan 30 2014

Fruit Inspired Boats

This week, STEM club began with a science experiment instead of a story. The girls met in my room, gathered all our materials we needed, and we went off to our school’s new project space. This space is our newest “green energy” building, and it was designed for hands-on, messy projects! Perfect! Just what we need! This week’s task is going to be a messy one!
The girls gathered around a water table. I pulled out two oranges. I then asked them to predict if the orange will sink or float. Most thought it would float… And sure enough, it did.
Next, I took a different orange, and this time, I peeled it. The girls predicted what would happen when placed in the water, and it was 50/50 split. We watched the peeled orange sink to the bottom. Now we could start our discussion. Why did this happen? It should weigh less, so why did the peeled orange sink? We talked about air. The peel has a lot of air, just like your floaties have air in them when you swim in the pool. The peeled orange is more dense. I introduced the term buoyant to them. They all understood how the regular orange would have more air and is buoyant.
The girls task was to build a boat that could:
1- float
2- be waterproof
3- hold weight (connecting from our last task)

The girls were very excited for this and couldn’t wait to get the hands on the materials. The orange experiment certainly got them thinking. They carefully selected items they thought would float. The materials available to them would not make an instant boat. They had to really think about how to turn thier items into a boat. It was far more complex than they expected.
Upon placing them in the water, they realized there is a lot to think about when it comes to designing boats.
Many of them tipped over. Some did not float and some held very little weight. We were not able to make modifications this class, so our boats will continue one more week.

Here is some of our experimenting:

More to come!