Will our Cargo Ship float?

Building is fun, but testing our designs can be even more fun…especially if you get to sink a boat! Making mistakes is part of the engineering process! It helps us to figure out what does NOT work, so we can design it better next time. This experiment encourages you to engineer a stronger boat. You can use strategy and predictions to determine how much weight your cargo ship can carry! Have fun!


Design & Build a strong Cargo Ship!


  • Aluminum Foil
  • Painters Tape
  • Large bowl or bin that can hold water
  • Water
  • Pennies, feathers, paperclips, cotton balls, or other small items of varying weights

Step 1: Fill your bowl up halfway with water  

Step 2: Using a piece of aluminum foil (try starting with an approximate 12 inch square,) fold the aluminum in half and then fold up each of the four sides to have a lip around 1 inch tall. Experiment with how many times you fold the foil sides (Do more folds make them stronger? What makes the boat heavier? Are taller or shorter sides better?

Step 3: Wrap tape around the edges to see if sealing the sides helps keep water out.

Step 4: Place your Cargo Ship into the water in your bowl

Step 5: Choose some items to place in your ship. You could start with cotton balls first. How many cotton balls will your ship hold?

Try paper clips next…

How about coins?

Does your boat hold more pennies or more quarters?

How many coins does your ship hold before it sinks?

Try this experiment with a friend and see whose ship holds more cargo!

Have fun being curious and creative!

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