Boats Afloat

April 13, 2021 at 1:53 PM

With thanks to Year 7 teacher, Miss Candace Cassie

The Design Phase
The Senior Syndicate at the Girls School has been focused on ‘Wind’ for their Inquiry this term, unpacking the concept across the curriculum. Within the STEAM*component of their lessons, the girls were tasked with a two part boat building challenge, to develop over the course of the whole term.

Component 1: Individual Boat Challenge
The girls were tasked with designing and building a boat that would be able to race across the width of the school pool.
Requirements were that it had to be powered in two ways - some form of working motor and also a sail to catch the wind.

Component 2: Class Team Building Boat
Every STEAM task has a collaborative component, so this term’s group task was based around the girls all coming together to build a big boat.
This boat had to be big enough for their Tutor Teacher to race the length of the pool (without sinking!).

Underpinning STEAM* is a focus on design thinking, which is a mindset and approach to learning that includes collaboration and problem solving. The design process is a structured framework which identifies a challenge, gathers information, and then generates potential solutions and refines ideas before finally conducting tests – returning to the design phase if the outcome is not satisfactory.

This design thinking process empowers the girls to think more creatively to solve problems and be open to the ideas of others and consider different solutions – sometimes making compromises as ideas are pooled. Working in groups allows for each member to have input as they work towards an outcome, also learning from each other’s thoughts in the process. Students take time to reflect on the process at the end of each STEAM session.

As the girls set about designing their individual boats, with the concept of ‘Wind’ uppermost in mind, there was much to think about. Throughout the process, they trialled their own boats at each stage. To test the effectiveness of their sails, they used a fan to propel their boat across a tub of water. To test their rudimentary motors, they wound it up and then let it go in the art room sink to see how far it travelled - and whether it travelled in a straight line!

There were many trial and error conversations amongst the girls, as they realised there were aspects of their own designs that needed fine tuning, meaning they had to go back to the drawing board and recreate some elements of their boat. There was much to learn from each other. The trickiest part, without question, was making their motor and ensuring it was mounted straight, so that their boat travelled in a straight line rather than in a circle – far trickier than they expected but the reward and satisfaction they got from making progress was amazing!

The big boat was a completely different task. As a whole class, they collected milk bottles and other plastic bottles, along with any other materials they thought would assist to create a boat sturdy enough to float and carry their class teacher across the pool – with two classes taking on the task, there was a distinct element of competition and in true America’s Cup style, secrecy surrounding the design!
There was much discussion around the shape of the boat and the most effective materials to use. – as well as the final design for the class flag! The degree of teamwork shown was incredible. A team building challenge with over 20 different opinions, all needing to work together, could be a recipe for disaster, but through assigning jobs for the development of the boat, the girls came together in an amazing showcase of team work.

Race Day
After initial testing, race day arrived for both the individual boats and for the four game teachers who were assigned to race their class boat! Chief Judge for the event was hydraulic engineer, Scott Barnes who has been working for Emirates Team New Zealand as part of their land crew. He was joined by Deputy Principal, Mrs Jill Wahlstrom and PE teacher, Mrs Alison Slyfield. With dozens of boats on the water, this was no easy task!

With not a breath of wind around the pool, caretaker Mr McDiarmid was called on to put his leaf blower to work, replicating the unpredictable breezes on the Hauraki Gulf! Excitement built throughout the races building to the final event. The big boats were lowered to the water and Miss Candace Cassie (7CC), Mrs Bernadette Haerewera (7BH), Mr Isaac Williams (8IW) and Mrs Sonya Koshy (8SK) set sail….well sort of! The highly favoured 7BH Whale Rider boat promptly turned backwards and struggled to join the race, Mrs Koshy slid of 8SK’s boat before the race began and the boat lost its deck, meanwhile the two simplest designs sped away with fierce competition between Miss Cassie and Mr Williams, with Miss Cassie making the full length of the pool just a whisper ahead to claim the Big Boat title!

And the final student winners?
Best Dressed Boats went to Year 7 Caitlin Best and Year 8 Karol Zhang. The most innovative design went to Phoebe Wood whilst the fastest boat in Year 7 was Chloe Ira with Milly MacLeod first in Year 8. What a fantastic morning!

The aim of our STEAM Innovations programme is to ensure our girls are equipped and enabled for a highly technological world. By exposing the girls to a range of challenges and experiences across the curriculum, we aim to develop their confidence and competence, while advancing the key skills of collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving and communication – all ‘human’ skills that robots currently perform poorly!

*STEAM explained
*‘STEAM’ is an educational approach to learning that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking. The end results are students who take thoughtful risks, engage in experiential learning, persist in problem-solving, embrace collaboration, and work through the creative process to find new solutions. They are the innovators, educators, leaders and learners of tomorrow!

Originally known as ‘STEM’ (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), this educational acronym sprang into wide usage when former US President Obama prioritised educational initiatives to help prepare students to meet the growing need for professionals in the fields of the sciences and mathematics. The concept of STEAM, adding Art to the mix, arose when the Rhode Island School of Design began championing ‘that innovation comes with combining the mind of a scientist or technologist with that of an artist or designer.’ John Maeda, then President of the School of Design went on to say, ‘The scale of STEM is amazing but that alone doesn’t create warmth and humanity and connection. For instance, a thing like an MP3 Player is the result of a STEM technology. But until Apple came along, it didn’t become desirable. It was a STEAM technology that made it a part of our everyday lives.’

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