Lesson: Introduction to Engineering: Aluminum Foil Boats

David Kujawski Bird Middle East Walpole, MA
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Lesson Objective

YWBAT: Given a piece of aluminum foil, create a boat that can hold as many markers as possible while floating in water.

Lesson Plan

This lesson is used to get students excited about engineering by acting like an engineer.  Students will briefly design, build and test a boat made of aluminum foil.


  • Aluminum foil (cut into 15 cm x 15cm)
  • 25-40 Markers (save your dried up markers for testing)
  • A clear bin filled half way with water
  • Optional--LCD projector and document camera (I use this to project the testing area on a screen so that all students can see what's happening)

Lesson Breakdown:

  1. DO NOW: What does an engineer do?  Students should answer this question when the bell rings.  Review responses.  (5 minutes)
  2. Explain to the students that they are going to be engineers today whose challenge it is to create a boat that can hold as many markers as possible.
  3. Give students 5 minutes to brainstorm ideas and sketch their boat.
  4. Then give students aluminum foil (1 piece/ 2 students) and have them create their boat (4 minutes)  This isn't a lot of time!  You can reinforce the idea of constraints that engineers face.  Mostly time and money.
  5. Test boats one at a time in the test area.  I like to set up the bin filled with water and the projector towards the front.  Students drop off their boat and I place the markers in.  I then record how many markers the boat held before sinking.
  6. Repeat for all boats.  Move quickly...this takes a while to test all of them.
  7. Wrap-up/clean-up.  If your wrap-up is short, be sure to reflect on the experience at the next class.

This lesson is adapted from Prentice Hall, The Nature of Science and Technology.

Lesson Resources

No resources at this time.


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