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Making physics fun at Tyrone

Tyrone High School Physics teacher Brian Gruber added some fun to his class to encourage students to take physics. He added a cardboard boat race as the class’ final project to make learning fun.
Gruber used the Titanic as an example for the students to teach the Archimedes principle.
One of the most famous ships to attempt the crossing of the Atlantic Ocean was the Titanic. It was deemed unsinkable but the hull of the Titanic was ripped open by an ice glacier. It may be hard to believe that a steel hull is capable of being ripped open but one must realize the great force behind a two or three hundred thousand-pound ship moving at any speed. It is even more remarkable to wonder how such a large ship made of steel is possible to float. Did you ever wonder how a large ship or tanker is able to float?
Ships are able to float because of buoyancy. Any object placed in a fluid such as air or water will weigh less. Archimedes is credited with discovering buoyancy. Archimedes stated that any object submerged or floating in a fluid is buoyed upward by a force equal to the weight of the fluid it displaces. So an object will float if its buoyant force is equal to the weight of the object. It is in equilibrium at this point.
In this activity students will apply Archimedes’ principle to the building of a cardboard boat. Even though students are not crossing the Atlantic Ocean as the Titanic did, the swimming pool can be a formidable match for a cardboard boat. At least students will not have to worry about icebergs or cold water.
The objectives of this project were simple: To build a boat out of cardboard and tape that will carry two people the length of the pool and back; to make a poster showing a diagram of the boat and the calculations of the buoyancy and to summarize successful designs and problems observed with building cardboard boats.
The only things the students were allowed to use on the project were Corrugated cardboard (single corrugated or double corrugated), tape and any material you need to make the poster.
“The students had to calculate the buoyancy of their boat,” said Gruber. “Basically they had to know why their boat will float through the Archimedes Principle. They had to calculate how deep their boat will go in the water and how much weight it would hold.”
The double elimination boat race winners were Josh Frye and Adam Smith, with Jason Wilson and Bill Schrechengost finishing second.
“I actually have a lot of fun watching the video after the races are completed,” said Gruber. “You miss a lot when the races are going on. People think I have stock in duct tape because of the amount the students use in the project, but it is a fun way to apply Archimedes’ Principle.”
Billy Shreckengost and Jason Wilson’s boat held 11 people and it would have held more. Also Alicia Merryman and Stephanie Barndt had the best looking boat. There were two boats that had to be cut with the utility knife, one was Jon Patton and David Collins and the other was Morgann Davis and Joe Houck. At the end of the day, the students filled up a whole dumpster with all the cardboard.