Thursday, October 10, 2013


A STEM challenge for future engineers – building a mini boat that really floats.
Engineering for Kids: Build a Boat that Floats
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Creative Challenges for Future Engineers

Mini Boat from Scrap Wood with Hot Glue
I ill be the first to say that my 6 year old daughter is not very crafty. She usually creates with her mind, not with her hands. For more than a year now she’s been saying that she plans to become a mechanical engineer and run her own company where she will be inventing things. Her determination and dislike of crafting made me Perhaps this explains why she rarely responded with real enthusiasm to “invitations to create” that I see so often on other blogs. She was thrilled, however, when I gave her the following verbal challenge:
Using any type of material, build a boat that can float and hold one Playmobil person.

Brainstorming

Selecting Building Materials
When I first posed Smarty this challenge before bed the previous day, she had a lot of ideas on how the boat can be built. The actual work became even more interesting when her classmate who lives on our street joined Smarty for this boat building activity. Together they decided that their boats need to be built with scrap wood, corks and drinking straws. I provided the materials and they were off building.

Building Boats

Build a Boat with a Hot Glue Gun
It was interesting to see how two kids of roughly the same age came with very different designs using the same materials. They were both thrilled to be able to use a glue gun. I find it almost impossible to convince daughter to use normal glue once she discovered hot glue and duct tape, but this project was a valid candidate for a low temp glue gun. Smarty is almost 7, her friend is a little over, and both of them were able to handle a glue gun on their own.

Testing Waters – Sink or Float?

Sink or Float
I am not a professional mommy blogger – I forgot to take pictures of an actual “seaworthiness test” in the bathtub, because I was too caught up in all the excitement. Both boats “sort of” floated, and captains stayed in the boats, but both boats were leaning heavily and taking water. It will be very interesting to see if both kiddos will improve on their design in the next iterations or will try something new.

A Book Tie-In

ColumbusAfter reading this post, I wasn’t so sure that I really want to honor Columbus, but I thought that You Wouldn’t Want to Sail With Christopher Columbus (an affiliate link) gives a good overview of Columbus journey and highlights his wrong views about his discoveries and his struggles later in life. Smarty loves this series because non-fiction facts are presented and illustrated in a way that tickles her funny bone. I strongly recommend this series for fluent readers interested in history.

More Suggestions for Future Engineers

Follow my Pinterest Board For Future Engineers

Your Turn:

Have you given your children an engineering challenge of building something from any sort of materials? What did they come up with? Leave a link in the comments if you are a blogger and wrote about it.
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9 comments:

maryanne @ mama smiles said...

I NEED to give my kids a challenge like this! I actually want to get them started with more woodworking, and this would be a cool first project.

Kelly said...

This is wonderful! I love the idea of challenging them to be creative this way.
Kelly at Little Wonders' Days

Phyllis said...

What a great challenge.

Ticia said...

My kids would love this challenge. We haven't done this particular one, but we've done a few others.

I've always found the phrasing "An invitation to...." rather pretentious, that's not quite the right word, but I find the phrasing off-putting to me.

Carla at Preschool Powol Packets said...

This is a great project--I love that you used wood! We haven't done very many projects with wood as a medium, and I think it's such a great idea! Thanks so much for sharing!!

Anna said...

This is exactly the sort of assignment I detested in school because it required so much creativity and thought (and SCIENCE, ack!)- I think it's awesome that your daughter responds so well to this sort of activity. It is just the kind of thing my 5 year old would like. I need to give him more open ended learning challenges. Thanks for the idea!

Pennies of Time said...

Totally sending this to my nephew. He is going to love this! Thanks for sharing at Magic Moments Monday--we'll be sharing your post!

Sherri said...

Wonderful idea! My daughter loves anything like this! Thanks for sharing at The Mommy Club Link Party!

Marie-Claude Leroux said...

Great idea! It's great to see your daughter take on a challenge and run with it.