With a splash, the AP Physics 2 class began the school year jumping right into their annual boat race. The students were instructed to pair up and work together in order to construct a boat out of cardboard boxes. The boats would need to be able to hold one student’s weight for the greatest number of laps over the longest period of time. The students were tasked with using Archimedes’ principle to create the best boat they could in three weeks. The class had a ton of fun building them; adding their own personal touches to the boats such as flags, color, and designs. No boat looked similar to another, each group bringing their personal creative vision to life, hoping to strive for greatness once they were in the water.
Each group’s designs reacted differently to the challenge, some thriving, showing no signs of sinking, while others struggled to keep their boat afloat. One group whose boat did very well was Manushri Anand and Isabella Schroder, who managed to keep their boat afloat for 40 minutes, paddling 25 laps in that time. When talking to Anand about how they were able to keep the boat afloat for so long, she explained their careful design process, using the “airbox method”. This involved taking a big box as the base for their boat and filling it with smaller boxes that were taped shut in order to keep more air in the boat, adding to its buoyancy. Their boat was “barely in the water at all” and was remaining stable throughout the course of the competition. Though Isabella was getting tired of paddling, she remained strong, continuing to propel the boat forward, Manu cheering her on from the sideline.
Another group that took on the challenge was Matt Bernier and Andrew Cecchino. Though initially their boat started off strong, they quickly and unfortunately realized a flaw in their design. Their boat began to collapse and tragically sank. Bernier realized the team’s mistake after the fact, saying that though it should have held his weight easily, he “didn’t account for the walls” which collapsed. While this was disappointing for them, they remained optimistic and said that if they were to build another boat they would be sure to reinforce the walls and help each other, being more productive as partners, to be sure that the boat would not sink in the future.
This fantastic, hands-on learning experience is a great opportunity for physics students to put their knowledge and skills to the test. They are able to see their ideas come to life, incorporating important physics concepts in their designs. In the end, two teams tied with the same results in time and laps. Manu Anand and Isabella Schroder tied with Jakob Goldfarb and Cole Gakos for a winning time of 40 minutes and a total of 25 laps around the pool, neither boat sinking.