Tug Boat Science

Over on Red Ted Art this week, we made some simple Tug Boats from Margarine Tubs (do go and check out our craft over there too!). We thought that over here on Life At The Zoo, we would quickly explain the science behind it!!

Boat craft for kids

Tugboat Science

The key to your tugboat is the elastic band. Elastic bands are stretchy and reshape themselves when released. When you change their shape, they are actually “storing” the energy used to change them. When you let go of the elastic band and it “pings back” into it’s original shape, that energy is released.

When you have a tug boat and you wind the elastic round and round the paddle, you are “filling it” with energy. Let go … it unwinds and makes the paddle turn around. The motion of the paddle pushes the boat forward.

You can do different experiments

  • try out different elastic bands (ours was quite “slack to start with a smaller, tighter band would prob make the paddle move faster)
  • You can do experiments around how many twists it takes to get the boat x far.
  • Or you can see what happens with different sized paddles.

Expanding on the experiment

This experiment is about “storing energy” and also about how the paddle moves the boat forward. But you can expand on this and compare it to a water wheel. What are the differences? What are the similarities (in essence, I would say a water wheel works in reverse).

Happy playtime everyone!

Watch it move (and I know it is moving in the wrong direction.. we quickly learnt that you have to wind the elastic band in a certain direction!):

This is part of the Science at Home Series. We explored the science of creating moving vehicles. See how the rest of the team did:


Visit Inspiration Laboratories for details on posts from Blue Bear Wood, Rainy Day Mum and Science Sparks! And find a video to our Balloon Car on Red Ted Art.



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