The goal of this activity is for each participant to build a combination of Styrofoam peanut and paperclips that neither floats on top or sinks to the bottom but rather “flinks” (hovers half way between top and bottom). When the craft neither floats nor sinks it is neutrally buoyant.
Large (~20 gallon) clear tote filled with water
Plastic table cover
1 box large paper clips
4 boxes small paper clips
1 small bag Styrofoam peanuts (non-biodegradable)
Small pitcher/bowl to fill and empty tote
These supplies are good for one station which accommodates 4-5 participants at one time. Add tubs, paper clips, and peanuts as needed to set up additional stations. Have plenty of work space for the participants to build their Flinker. A tub on each end of an 8-foot table works very well (the tub on the end of the table also makes for better accessibility by more people). Spread the paper clips and peanuts around the tub and on the table. The attached picture shows a setup.
The tub should be sized so that there can be 10-12 inches of water – enough vertical distance to see how buoyant the Flinker is. Fill the tub to nearly the top with water. Depending on the facility it may be possible to fill the tub part way and then move it to the table. It will probably be necessary to haul water to finish filling the tub.
A peanut with no paperclips will float on top of the water. Paperclips on their own will sink to the bottom of the tub. The goal of this activity is for each participant to build a combination of Styrofoam peanut and paperclips that neither floats on top or sinks to the bottom but rather “flinks” (hovers half way between top and bottom). When the craft neither floats nor sinks it is neutrally buoyant.
A peanut by itself is very buoyant. It takes several paper clips to get it to start to sink. There are two ways to help it sink – add more paper clips (the larger ones add more weight quicker) or remove some of the Styrofoam. If the craft has sunk, the only options are to remove paper clips or get a new peanut.
It is important to use environmentally unfriendly Styrofoam peanuts. The others will come apart and make a mess.
As participants complete the activity (either successfully or in surrender), the activity supervisor should fish abandoned craft out of the tub. Paper clips can be recycled during the activity. They generally cannot be reused for Flinkers on another day because they corrode and get messy. The Styrofoam peanuts need to be discarded.