Straw-Cat Sailboat



  • The Shoebox Regatta teaches physics with 3D-printed toys.
  • Teach kids how sailboats work by making Catamaran sailboats from printed parts, soda straws and plastic wrappers. 
  • The boats can be raced with each in a plastic shoebox of water and powered by blowing on the sails through straws. 
  • Adjusting the sail (lateen rig like a sunfish), rudder and wind direction facilitates learning of how sailboats can sail in directions other than the way the wind is blowing.
  • -Print the set of sailboat parts (designed to fit on the small Printerbot Simple bed)
  • -Cut 4 equal straw pieces (3 long) for pontoons
  • -Cut a 1 inch straw for centerboard support
  • -Cut a 3 inch straw for mast
  • -Cut triangle sail from cellophane and tape to printed spars
  • -Assemble sailboat
  • -Fill plastic box half full of water.
  • -Float in water and adjust tiller and sail for 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.
  • -Winner is the first boat to go the length of the box without touching the side.
  • -Winner of the tournament (regatta) gets to keep the winning boat (which is replaced in the fleet by the one printing during the competition.)
  • -3D printed parts: sail spars, forward frame, aft frame, centerboard, rudder and tiller.
  • -4 colorful soda straws.
  • -colorful cellophane food packaging
  • -plastic shoebox and water
  • Lessons include:
  • -center-of-gravity
  • -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 for improving performance,
Teachers can re-use the apparatus with subsequent classes.

Design Files

File Size

181 KB


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