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Penny Boats

Can we use recycled materials to support the weight of 10 pennies? What about 100 pennies?

Materials needed:

  • Something to hold water- this can be your sink, bathtub, or a plastic bin (as long as it's big enough for your creation!)

  • About 1 foot of aluminum foil

  • Whatever you can find in your recycling bin! Toilet paper rolls, newspaper, milk jugs, plastic bottles, packing materials, etc.

  • Level up, Chopped style: have someone else pick out your 5 "secret" materials

  • Pennies or other coins for weight


  • Create the building materials "kits": each kit should have at least one 1-foot piece of aluminum foil and 3 or more recycled materials

  • Fill your sink, tub, or bin with about 3 inches of water


Participants are each given one one building kit. The goal is to make a boat which will hold as many coins as possible without sinking. They may only use the materials given, or chosen ahead of time.

When their vessel is complete, have the student place the boat on the water. They should slowly add coins, making sure to keep a tally of how many coins the boat will hold, without dipping beneath the surface.

Reflect on this activity and extend it:

  • Why do cruise ships float? They're big, and heavy, and made out of metal... is it magic? No! It's Archimedes' Principle: when the weight of the water that an object pushes out of the way is greater than the weight of the object, it should float!

  • How can you alter your design to support more weight? Do you need a different shape? Different materials?

You can download a printer-friendly version of this activity below!

STEAM Day Penny Boat
Download PDF • 72KB

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