March 5, 2021, 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.
Cockrell School of Engineering

Tinfoil Boats with Longhorn Racing

Learn about Density with Longhorn Racing
Age group: Elementary School

The Challenge:  Create a tinfoil boat that can hold the most pennies without sinking.

Create a boat using only foil. Gently place your boat in the water and then add your weights (pennies, small rocks, etc.) one at a time until your boat sinks. Count how many pennies it took to sink your boat. Redesign your boat and try again to see if you can create a boat to hold even more weight.

Take a photo before you test your design or video your test and share on Flipgrid.

Recommended Materials:

  • Aluminum foil
  • Tape
  • Rag or paper towels
  • Pennies. You may need as many as 200 pennies, depending on the size and shape of the boats you make. If you don’t have pennies you can use dry rice and a measuring cup, golf balls, marbles, small rocks, or anything else that slowly adds weight to your boat.
  • Bucket, tub, sink, or dishpan
  • Water

How does this activity connect to STEM and today's Girl Day theme of Moving Around: Land, Water, Air, and Space?

Engineers have to figure out ways of getting things from one side of the world to the other. They design boats, airplanes, bicycles, cars, and other vehicles to get people and things all over the world. Each design is different and engineers must understand their design constraints (Can I only use foil for my boat or can I use other materials?) and the challenge they are trying to solve (Create a boat that holds the most pennies possible.). Engineers work in teams to perhaps maximize the amount of stuff a boat can carry, look at the science to figure out what materials will work best, consider the safety of transporting the materials, and more. And when engineers create something, they test it...and if it fails, they redesign and try again. Getting something to fail is part of the process of figuring out how to make something better. Make your tin foil boat fail...and then make it better!

About Us

Longhorn Racing is a student club made up of three design teams that give its members the opportunity to explore different engineering fields and grow their practice in real-world skills. We get to do all of this while building a racecar! The organization's three teams are combustion, solar, and electric. The Combustion Vehicle Team is one of our longest-running teams, building, and racing since 1981. Our goal is to compete at the international level next to the best teams in the world. Our Solar Vehicle Team wants to bring awareness to the solar-powered alternatives. We spend our time bringing solar power closer to practicality by building a racecar. Last but not least, the Electric Vehicle Team was formed in 2016. Much like our solar team, this team has allowed our students to work with some of the most cutting-edge vehicle technology.