At Open Make: Trash, we tried a new activity called “Water Craft.” In this activity, visitors explore creating a “water craft” that would float on the water, move through the water, or run across the water surface. Water crafts include boats, submarines, and flotsams, but are not limited to them.
As a water container, we used a big water trough. It was a perfect size for visitors to test out their creation and see whether what they made would behave as initially intended. The size of the container also attracted many young children who were more interested in playing with the large amount of water and floating objects than designing water crafts...
The water crafts are usually composed of two separate parts: the water craft body and the water craft "engine." While the body acts as the main structure of a water craft, the engine enables the water craft to move across the water surface. We had a lot of trash materials, such as plastic containers, yogurt cups, easter egg shells, popsicle sticks, and many others, intended mainly for creating bodies of water crafts. For "engines", we had different size of rubber bands, paper clips, straws, and beads. One example of water craft engines is a rubber band powered propeller, which is shown in the right photo.
What I particularly enjoyed about this activity was seeing the variety of ideas that visitors came up with in order to give motion to their water crafts. These two brothers (in the photo of bottom right) spent more than one hour on designing their rubber band powered water craft. First, they were playing with a sample of a rubber band propeller to see how it works — winding it up and letting it go.
Then, they started making their own rubber band powered propeller. They attached two bottle caps at a tip of the propeller so it would propel itself through the water. Check this boat in action!
Also, in the video, look at the fin at the bottom of their boat. The fin is there because they noticed the boat would tend to circle without it. With the fin, their boat moved straight forward.
The video below shows you a few more examples (some are from a previous try-out workshop before Open Make).
None of the water crafts started out with a perfect mechanism. They all started as very simple structures and without any motion. Then, some of the visitors used the pre-made rubber band motors that we provided, other visitors came up with their own mechanisms through a careful observation of the samples and their creations after many trials and errors.
Making water crafts is not easy. Even with the pre-made rubber band motors, visitors had a hard time to manage the movement of the objects. There were enough moments of frustration, being stuck, and failures in this activity that visitors got discouraged... (and that is where our facilitation became really important!) At the same time, I saw a lot of moments of joy when the water crafts acted as visitors intended. In terms of development of this activity, there is still plenty of things that could be improved, such as the selection of the materials, the setup of the space, the way to scaffold visitors' learning process so that they could get unstuck from frustrations in meaningful ways. We are still at an early stage of prototyping this activity.
Our experimentation and exploration continues!