administration student task rubric student work technical quality
Boat Building
Administration Procedures
Grades 9-12 Performance Task
Contributed by: Kentucky Department of Education (KDE)


Students design and construct a boat made out of aluminum foil. Students test the boats to see which boat floats the best using three different solutions and steel ball weights.

Students work on their own to construct a boat of their own design. As a group, they test the boats to see which boat floats the best. Finally, each student responds to questions about the task on their own.

This task is designed to take students approximately 45-50 minutes to complete.

Overall Task Content Area:

Science and technology
Specific Knowledge Areas:
Technological design
Performance Expectations:
  • conducting investigations
  • using equipment
  • gathering, organizing, and representing data
  • formulating conclusions from investigational data
  • applying scientific principles to develop explanations and solve new problems

National Science Education Standards:

12 E ST 1: Abilities of technological design: Grades 9-12
1.2 Propose designs and choose between alternative solutions. Students should demonstrate thoughtful planning for a piece of technology or technique. Students should be introduced to the roles of models and simulations in these processes.

1.3 Implement a proposed solution. A variety of skills can be needed in proposing a solution depending on the type of technology that is involved. The construction of artifacts can require the skills of cutting, shaping, treating, and joining common materials - such as wood, metal, plastics, and textiles. Solutions can also be implemented using computer software.

1.4 Evaluate the solution and its consequences. Students should test any solution against the needs and criteria it was designed to meet. At this stage, new criteria not originally considered may be reviewed.

1.5 Communicate the problem, process, and solution. Students should present their results to students, teachers, and others in a variety of ways, such as orally, in writing, and in other forms - including models, diagrams, and demonstrations.

12 A SI 1: Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry: Grades 9-12
1.4 Formulate and revise scientific explanations and models using logic and evidence. Student inquiries should culminate in formulating an explanation or model. Models should be physical, conceptual, and mathematical. In the process of answering the questions, the students should engage in discussions and arguments that result in the revision of their explanations. These discussions should be based on scientific knowledge, the use of logic, and evidence from their investigation.

8 B PS 1: Properties and changes of properties in matter: Grades 5-8
1.1 A substance has characteristic properties, such as density, a boiling point, and solubility, all of which are independent of the amount of the sample. A mixture of substances often can be separated into the original substances using one or more of the characteristic properties.
(Use the "hot" link on the PALS home page to check the full text of related National Science Education Standards, if desired.)

General Instructions to the Teacher:

This task is designed to take students approximately 45-50 minutes to complete.

Students work alone for the first 10 minutes to design and build a boat. Each student should work to make the best boat design they can. After 10 minutes, students join with their group to test each boat. Students may work in groups of 4 (3-5) for next part of the task. They will spend 20 minutes to decide which boat design is best by determining the average number of weights each boat can hold before it sinks. They should test boats in all three solutions. It is important that each student in the group records the results for all boats.

After 30 minutes, you should break up the groups and instruct students to address questions #7-11, working on their own for the rest of the test period (approximately 15 minutes.) At this point, they may no longer talk, however all students in a group must be situated such that they can refer to all the boats constructed by members of their group.

Students should be ready to work as soon as the period begins. Group assignments should be made in advance. The materials should be set out at each lab station, if possible. A central supply area, if needed, should be easily accessible. All supplies should be clearly labeled.

Materials for Boat Building:

At this station students should have:

  • 4 six-inch square pieces of heavy duty aluminum foil (1 per person)
  • 4 index cards (1 per person)
  • 3 trays containing three different solutions (solutions should be of different densities or salinity)
  • 75 steel ball weights (other objects can be substituted, such as paper clips)
  • timer
  • paper towels

Advance Preparation:

The three solutions must be prepared in advance. Students should not be told the differences between the solutions.


  • Be careful.
  • Teachers and students should always exercise appropriate safety precautions and utilize appropriate laboratory safety procedures and equipment when working on science performance tasks.


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