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The Gutterboat Challenge December 14, 2012

Posted by bsciencecenter in Science Center.
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Every year, Burlington fifth graders put their engineering skills to the test in “The Gutterboat Challenge,” a friendly competition between students (and classes!) to see who can build the fastest styrofoam-hull boat. While the type of fan varies from school to school, all students must design and construct a boat that can travel the distance of a plastic gutter, much like the one you might find on a home!


The Design Process

All students are provided with a block of styrofoam and the instructions that they may use any materials available to them at home or school. They are also instructed on the design or engineering process through an introductory lesson by Mr. Musselman before being left to their own research on boat design and collaborative brainstorming.

Gutterboat Challenge introduction by Mr. M.

The entire challenge takes between one to two weeks with an opportunity to do a “test run” in between the introduction and final testing phase. It is here many students find flaws with their boats (too light, unable to catch wind, unbalanced, etc.) that they are then expected to redesign and adjust.


On the final day anticipation builds as each student gets the chance to race against the clock on the main stage. Not all boats are successful but all present a learning opportunity. The winning time of Pine Glen’s Gutterboat Challenge this year 07.05 seconds. Can’t wait to see if that time will be topped at another school!


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