Ahoy, there! Physics experiment afloat!

March 26, 2014 by


The principle is pretty dry: The buoyant force on an object is equal to the weight of the displaced fluid.

But the practice for the students in Jonathan Baxa’s freshman physics class was decidedly wet.

On Wednesday morning, they came to the indoor swimming pool at the Nazareth Motherhouse with cardboard boats to show off what they had learned.

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The students “raced” a total of 14 boats, which they designed and then built in teams. Each boat was designed to carry two people the length of the pool and back, and could be built using only adhesive tape and cardboard.

The winning time was 59½ seconds, although staying afloat and steering proved more important than speed.

“They had to do the math to figure buoyancy and displacement,” Baxa explained. “And some of them at least studied some boat design.”

This is the first time Baxa has tried the cardboard boat challenge with his students at Concordia High School, and the first time the Motherhouse pool has hosted a regatta of any kind.

Baxa would like to do another cardboard boat race in the Motherhouse pool; first, though, is his students’ next physics experiment: Homemade musical instruments to apply the principles of harmonics, frequency and sound waves.






2 Responses to “Ahoy, there! Physics experiment afloat!”

  1. Jodi Creten on March 30th, 2014 4:07 pm

    That sounds like fun!

  2. Marcia Allen on March 28th, 2014 11:43 am

    Our first regatta – now there’s a thought!

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