Educational Outreach

Boat Engineering Challenge

student demonstration


Learning Outcomes 

Building boats involves mechanical, electrical, electronic, software and safety engineering. Engineers not only build boats. They design, build, and maintain ships, from aircraft carriers to submarines and from sailboats to tankers. Boat design goes beyond aesthetics, or the way the boat looks. Engineers are responsible for the ship design, including the form, structure, and stability of hulls.  Students should be able to calculate the efficiency of their craft, understand the importance of economics in engineering and be able to apply the engineering design process to a real world situation. 


  • Assorted home and school supplies including but not limited to: aluminum foil, cardboard, foam, tape, paperclips, etc.
  • Container that can hold ast least 8 inches of water
  • Weights (pennies, blocks, tinker toys, etc.)
  • Pen/Pencil
  • Paper
  • Downloadable Boat Engineering Challenge Lesson Plan 

How It Works 

Students are given a challenge.  They all work for the same engineering firm, but are groups competing for a project within the company.  Teams are challenged to not only design the most efficient craft, but also the most economical craft.  Common classroom materials can be used for this activity, allowing easy substitutions.  Students will use the engineering design process to plan, build and test their creations.  


  1. Download the Boat Engineering Challenge Lesson Plan
  2. Plan
  3. Design
  4. Shop
  5. Build
  6. Test
  7. Calculate
  8. Analyze