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Junior STEM: Design and make a model sailing boat



Sailing boats use the energy of the wind to move. 

Your challenge is to design a boat with a mast and a sail. ​

Your class could hold a Boat Show during National Science Week to demonstrate what each boat can do.


  • Which is the best shape and size for a sail? 

  • Research sailing boats and sail shapes.

  • What materials could you use for the boat?

  • What is the best shape for a boat that will stay afloat?

  • What is the best shape for a boat to help it travel efficiently on water? Does altering the boat’s shape improve its performance?

  • How do we keep the boat upright?

  • How can the mast and boom be secured?


  • Try building your boat(s) from a range of different materials and experiment with a variety of sail shapes.

  • Test the sails by placing the boat in a container of water and simulate the wind by blowing on the sail, using a paper drinking straw. Undertake a second test using a handheld battery powered fan and compare your results.

  • Can you make the boat sail in different directions?

  • Can you make it sail in a circle?

  • Can you make the boat travel from one place to another and return to its starting point?

  • Can you design and make a catamaran, a trimaran, or an outrigger canoe…or a balloon or elastic band powered boat?

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Share photos and students’ work samples via National Science Week’s online community. The Australian Science Teachers Association loves to see pictures of children in the classroom learning, and to share photos via email at or share what has been created via FacebookInstagram or Twitter with #scienceweek! Please ensure that you have parental permission prior to posting any images of students.

RESOURCES: websites

Research a Program in the USA called Educational Passages where autonomous student built sailing boats are released into the sea and tracked via satellite. Their positions can be viewed on the website.


Learn about some of the most innovative sailboats and discover their design features



Discover more about electric boats and explore their innovative features.


4.33min Waterlust and US Sailing team up to examine the trigonometry of sailing.


4.03min For many, the concept of apparent wind might as well be black magic. Sailing at 20 knots in only 10 knots of ambient wind feels more like voodoo witchcraft than physics! In this Waterlust video we break down how apparent wind works and show you some experiments you can do to quantify it.