Project Alert: Explore Buoyancy: Designing Sea Craft

Explore Buoyancy

Rafts, Boats, Ships OH My!

In this lesson you will design a raft and a boat that can be easily 3D printed using Tinkercad.  Both of these models have a flat bottom design which helps displace water to make them float.  The more water the boat can displace, the more it can float or the more buoyant it is.  Additionally, there is a investigation that you can do with the help of your teacher.


In this Project Based Learning activity, students will be guided through a series of lessons that show them how to create functional boat that can be 3D printed easily.  Students will have to implement the basics of Tinkercad.  Additionally, with your guidance students will learn about density through an additional hands-on investigation.

Entry Event:

At the start of the project, challenge your class to make a boat that can carry as much weight as possible.  Using pennies you can weigh down your student’s rafts, hopefully they don’t sink when you put the “payload” on them.

Driving Question:

How can we use a 3D printer to create boats that can carry weight?

Key Knowledge:

During the attached activities students will learn:

·         How to design models for 3D printing (i.e. creating flat side, overhang consideration)

·         Reinforcement of basic tools of Tinkercad (i.e. scaling, grouping, copy/paste, etc)

·         Students will be able to conduct a small investigation about density.

·         Students will develop a deeper understand of density through this investigation.

Saving Time:

1.  If you decide to do the attached investigation, put your students in groups to conduct the investigation.  The groups will allow you to 3D print less rafts while also promoting group work.

2.  If you are struggling to get all of your student’s files for 3D printing you can have them save them to a shared network drive or have them send it to a designated email account.


1.  If possible, during the entry event have an example of a 3D printed boat especially from this lesson.  The raft in this lesson should be reasonably easy to print.

2.  Depending on the computer literacy of the student, they may or may not know how to copy and paste.  Ideally, the hotkeys should be introduced.  Hotkeys for copy and paste are ‘Command + C’ on a mac or ‘Ctrl + C’ on a pc for copy and ‘Command + V’ or ‘Ctrl + V’ for paste

3.  Make sure that during the density investigation that the students are loading their rafts evenly with weights.  If there is too much weight on one side it may all slide off.

4. Remind students that if they want their raft or boat printed they should keep one side of their model flat.

What’s Next?:

After completing both the boat and the raft in this lesson encourage students to customize their work, or create something new from scratch.  Additionally, if you are trying to teach buoyancy, there is a great activity attached. The activity requires use of a 3D printer and a food scale.

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