PHS Physics Students Float Concrete Canoe
They tested it in Fremont Lake. Did it float?
by Ellen Skinner, Sublette County School District #1
May 30, 2006
(Pinedale) Every year the Pinedale High School students in Mr. Bernethy’s physics class collaborate on a big project. He gives them 5 or 6 possibilities to choose from. Last year they built a catapult, and this year they built and floated a concrete canoe on Fremont Lake. Although a floating slab of concrete sounds unlikely, many colleges have competitions where they race similar concrete canoes.
The students in the class operate in the manner they would at an engineering firm. There are project managers, engineers, project reports and computer aided drawings to show how they will go about building the vessel. Before a single construction phase began, the students figured out the calculations and engineering of the canoe. Then they went to it and made a big mess, according to Mr. Bernethy. The concrete canoe was started in the physics room lab and finished in the agriculture area.
There were students who thought the canoe would sink, but they took it to Sandy Beach and tested it anyway. When it stayed on top of the water like it was supposed to and individual students took it for a ride, the students clapped and cheered. “You should have seen their faces when it floated,” Bernethy said. “They were happy and clapping.” The project was successful because the students worked in a collaborative engineering group using a lot of physics applications while they learned them.
Photos courtesy Sublette County School District #1