Physics Olympics 2011: Electrostatic Boat Race

The task is to build a boat using only a 12X12 inch piece of provided (or you can build it at home) aluminum foil and to propel it through the designated course using only static electricity.  The winner will be determined by the fastest time around the course.

Aluminum foil boats take into account  many of the same considerations as real boats. Some things to keep in mind for this competition is the boat’s hull design, and optimizing for maximum attractive force from static electricity. Unlike real boats, the factor of wind will be absent from this competition.

The Competition:
Participants will be use a 12X12 inch piece of aluminum foil to build a boat. A payload of zero to 10 pennies will be allowed. Participants will be provided a piece of fabric and PVC pipe to create a static charge which will then be used to move
the boat. The boats will be navigated through the provided course and timing will begin when participants touch the fabric to the PVC pipe. The fastest time will determine the winner.

If the any of the following rules are broken, the time will not count.

  • No disturbing the water – this means no blowing, dropping things into the water, or putting the PVC pipe in the water
  • Boats are to be propelled solely by static electricity – no blowing, pushing, or touching the boat with the PVC pipe
  • Boats are to be made only out of the entire 12×12 in. sheet of aluminum foil – other than cargo pennies, nothing else can be in the boat
  • Maximum time limit of 3 minutes will be enforced.


  • 12×12 inch sheet of aluminum foil* (bring your own foil)
  • pennies
  • piece of cloth
  • PVC pipe
  • aquatic stadium
Categories: Physics Olympics | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Physics Olympics 2011: Electrostatic Boat Race

  1. Pingback: The 2011 Physics Olympics « Foothill Science and Engineering Association

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