By Julia Hanauer-Milne
Elementary GT in Belgrade, Oakland, and Sidney
It wasn’t all smooth sailing in our first Raingutter Regatta, but the force was with us. Actually several forces worked to make our boats go and learning fun.
This fall students in the Belgrade, Oakland, and Sidney elementary GT program designed and raced sailboats as part of a unit that combined learning about the Bernoulli Principle with hunting for forces that affect characters in literature.
Students designed their boats on the website Tinkercad and printed them on our 3D printers. Purchased through the generosity of the Perloff Family Foundation and the James H. Bean and Belgrade Central School PTOs, we now have 3D printers at BCS, JHB, Williams, and Messalonskee Middle schools.
The actual racing took place in a 6-foot capped rain gutter with boats propelled by a fan.
The project helped students learn the design process, how to use Tinkercad, and how to keep going when things didn’t work as expected.
“You had to keep persevering,” said Bean School fifth-grader Rylee Pelletier, who found she needed to swap her large cloth sail for one made from paper. “Sometimes things wouldn’t go as you thought.”
Math also factored in.
“We learned a little about how to translate feet per second to miles per hour,” said Bean School fourth-grader Gavin Jackson, who named his boat the Chris Sale in honor of the Red Sox ace. “I also thought it was fun that we could make sails and see who had the fastest times.”
Students learned that many factors affected the performance of their boats, from sail size, shape, and material, to the placement of masts on their decks, to wind speed. They designed experiments on the spot to test all of those variables.
“I liked the design process, especially redesigning parts of my boat while we were working,” said BCS fifth grader Adelle MacLeay. “This project was super fun.”
One student made a cylindrical boat but quickly discovered that even with a keel, it wouldn’t stay upright. Unphased, he tried a variety of solutions.
“I tried to fix it in every way possible with the pieces that I had,” said Belgrade fifth grader Wyatt Seiders. “It just didn’t work, so I watched everyone else do it. I thought it was fun even though my design completely failed.”
The inspiration for the Raingutter Regatta came from a similar project at Edmunds Consolidated School in Dennysville, Maine and shared by the Perloff Family Foundation.
The project was a hit here too: “I liked the Raingutter Regatta because we got to use the 3D printer,” said Williams fourth grader Ivan Brown. “We got to try out different shapes to see what would make the best boat. It was fun (racing) against someone else.”