America's Cup Toy Boat Kit

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The America's Cup Toy Boat Kit demonstrates teaching physics with 3D-printed toys. It was used in aTech Camp to teach grades 4, 5, and 6 in a Rochester, NY elementary school. Each of the 20 students built a boat and tested it in a shoebox. Constructively hacking the design (changing sail shape and position, hull length, etc.) teaches confidence in creatively making and fixing things.


  • -Print the kit of sailboat parts (designed to fit on the small Printerbot Simple bed).
  • -Cut 4 equal straw pieces (4 inches long works well) for hulls.
  • -Cut a 1 inch straw for attaching the tiller to the rudder.
  • -Cut a straw for the mast (4 inches long works well).
  • -Cut the triangle sail from colorful cellophane or plastic film and tape it to the 3D-printed booms.
  • -Assemble the sailboat.
  • -Fill the plastic box half full of water.
  • -Float the boat in the water and adjust tiller and sail for a broad reach.
  • -Gently blow on sail through a straw.
  • -Each boat in the regatta has a shoebox and the sailers provide their own wind at the starting signal.
  • -The object of the game is to go the length of the box without touching the sides when wind blows from various directions.
  • -3D printed parts: sail, booms, forward frame, aft frame, straw plugs, rudder and tiller.
  • -5 colorful soda straws.
  • -Colorful cellophane food packaging.
  • -Plastic shoebox and water.
Lessons include:
  • -Center-of-gravity and tipping over.
  • -Angle of incidence and resulting forces on the sail.
  • -How to steer a sailboat to go other than the way the wind is blowing.
  • -The iterative design process (constructive hacking) where students can modify the boats to improve performance or fix flaws.
Teachers can re-use the apparatus with subsequent classes.

Design Files

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