Leonardo Paddleboat

Eli Whitney Museum

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For School Groups


Water was the teacher Leonardo loved best. He studied its tiniest droplets and its shattering waves. He envisioned boats the future would bring. Construct and test his paddlewheel boat. Conduct experiments that Leonardo proposes for all students of science.

Meets Connecticut Science Standards

  • 4.1: The position and motion of objects can be changed by pushing or pulling.
  • 4.3: Water has a major role in shaping the Earth’s surface.

For Families

We are accustomed to teaching with a model in front of a child, but these instructions should make it so that anyone can build one without our presence. We urge that parents and teachers be there to guide – but to allow the child to try to let the materials (and a picture of the final product) guide them. A wrong direction is always un-doable until you've glued something.
The Parts.

Step 1. Attach the screw eyes into the small holes on each side of the boat. Don't screw them down below the thread on the screw. Insert the peg with the head on it through the small spool and push into the hold in the 'bow' (front) of the boat.
Gently hammer the axle into one of the paddlewheels. It will be tight. Push the axle through the screw eyes and hammer the other end gently into the other paddlewheel. Put the arms into the skipper.

Step 2
Thread the rubber band through the axle so the knot is against the axle.

Step 3
Stretch the drive band around the front spool, under the axle, and through the anchor hole in the rear. Use the wooden cribbage peg to wedge it in tight.

Step 4
Wind the rubber band around the axle using the paddlewheels to turn it. Hold it so it doesn't unwind. Put into the water and then let go.
Which way did it move? How do you make it go the other way?
Decorated Paddleboat

Decorated Paddleboat

Paddlewheel boat Parts

Paddlewheel boat step 1

Paddlewheel boat step 2

Paddlewheel boat step 3

Paddlewheel boat step 4

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