Y6’s final STEM challenge of the year was to design, build, test and improve a fan driven model boat. Fan boats are a popular means of transportation in marshy or shallow areas where a submerged propeller would be impractical, most notably in the Florida Everglades. In recent years, fan boats have proven indispensable for flood, shallow water and ice rescue operations.
The week started with a reminder of how to construct electrical circuits safely and the forces associated with buoyancy. The aim was to construct the fan boat which travelled the length of the paddling pool in the shortest time. Considerable thought was employed in the designing of boats which would float, be stable and be fast! Concepts including ‘centre of gravity’, ‘streamlined shapes’ and even ‘moment of force’ were discussed before the prototypes were constructed. Limited to one piece of polystyrene, it was imperative that the designs were reliable before the cutting of resources began.
Eventually, armed with a fleet of fan boats, each Maths class set off for the paddling pools. Some fan boats sank instantly, some were more ‘graceful’ – but still sank, some spun around in circles and some did traverse the full length of the paddling pool. Back in the classroom, it was time to rethink and improve. What about two motors and fans? What about using more tape? What about increasing the height of the sides of the boat? We continued with the Engineering Design Process of testing and improving until we simply ran out of time!
The children have thoroughly enjoyed this project. They have been engaged and enthused throughout – and the excitement (and tension) when testing the boats was palpable! Through the activity they have developed their science, maths and design skills and a host of key life skills including collaboration, teamwork and problem solving.