Sailing boats use the energy of the wind to move. Can you design a boat with a sail that is moved by the wind?
Your challenge is to design the boat with a mast and a sail.
Try making boats from a range of different materials and experiment with a variety of sail shapes.
- What materials could you use for the boat?
- What is the best shape for a boat that will stay afloat?
- What is the best shape for a boat to help it best travel on water? Does changing the boat’s shape improve its performance?
- How do you keep the boat upright?
- How can the mast and boom be secured?
Research sailing boats and sail shapes. Which is the best shape and size for a sail?
- Watch videos about the science of sailing such as: The trigonometry of sailing on YouTube (4:34 mins) and Wind Velocity and Sailing (4:02 mins).
- Learn about a program in the USA called Educational Passages where autonomous student-built sailing boats are released into the sea and tracked via satellite. Their positions can be viewed on the website.
Build your boat and experiment with a variety of sail shapes.
Then, test the sails by placing the boat in a container of water and simulate the wind by blowing on the sail, using a paper drinking straw. Undertake a second test using a handheld battery powered fan, if you have one, and compare your results.
- Can you make the boat sail in different directions? Can you make it sail in a circle?
- Can you make the boat travel from one place to another and return to its starting point?
- Can you design and make a catamaran, a trimaran, or an outrigger canoe…or a balloon or elastic band powered boat?
(Copyright: Australian Science Teachers Association 2020, except where indicated otherwise. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.)
Below are plans some of our 5/6 students have come up with:
Below are models some of our 5/6 students made: