During term three, Year Five students undertook a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) unit to produce a functional solar boat. The students worked in teams across the year five grades, to design and build a boat they could race. These boats had to be built to specific guidelines in order to qualify for the  Solar Boat Challenge. The five fastest boats were to be entered in the Solar Boat Challenge at Scienceworks on 15 October.


Last Wednesday, the students excitedly boarded the bus and headed off to the Northcote pool to test their engineering marvels. Despite some stiff competition from the cloudy sky, (AAA batteries replaced the sun) waves, (created by the swimmers at the pool) and strong winds, the races began. We overcame the drama of solar panels drifting to the bottom of the pool, boats escaping their guide wire, the actual guide wire going in the pool, capsized boats, boats going around in circles or reversing and Lego people floating out to sea.


Five boats emerged as the fastest to qualify for the next round:

  • Solar Sailing (Sep, Aryan, Matilda and Jamie)
  • Speedy Solars (Lorimar, Yuvi, Hannah & Katie)
  • Blue Cube (Mia, Vanika, Harry & Ollie)
  • RA (Josh H, Josh P, Collette & Claire)
  • Project FRED (Rose, Eva, Felix & Declan)


These teams will be representing Fairfield PS this weekend at the Solar Boat Challenge which will be held at the Scienceworks Museum.


The teams will be competing in an all-day regatta, against 86 other boats from 12 other schools (primary and secondary) in the Metro region alone! If our teams are successful they will return on the Sunday to compete against other winners from the Regional category to decide who has designed the fastest solar boat.


Everyone is welcome to come along and cheer our competitors on. We wish them all the best for race day and that the sun shines strong.


The Year 5 Team

Nicole, Alison & Aaron


Here are some reflections from the students on their solar boat experience.

  • Over term three, the grade 5 classes had the opportunity to design and build solar boats. It was hard to get the hull of our boat right and positioning our solar panel. We had a few difficulties with our group. In the end our boat flipped a few times at the race.  ~ Alistair, Kalam, Esther & Sophie
  • On the day of the competition everybody was ready to go to race the boats. Some solar panels fell in the water and it was funny trying to get the solar panels off the bottom of the swimming pool.  ~ Indi, Minnie, Chris and Anthony
  • Our group started off making a logo. We learnt about how boats actually float (anything denser than water will sink). We sketched boat designs and made more detailed diagrams. We started building our boats. Ours was just under the maximum length and there was no problem with width. On the day we arrived at Northcote swimming pool and got ready for the race, it wasn’t sunny enough for solar so we used batteries our first time was 1:12min.  ~ Gabe B, Josh D, Kayla and Maya
  • The day was cold with a 40% chance of any rain. It reached 13 degrees Celsius and was very windy. Quite an uncomfortable day. It was really cloudy so instead of using solar panels we used AAA batteries to power our boat. We used one of the outdoor lanes so the wind affected the boats heavily. Some of the boats just twirled around in a circle and then the solar panel fell off and sunk to the bottom of the pool. It was exciting to see the first boat race even. It was really fun making the boats but the Styrofoam went everywhere and we had to crawl all over the ground to pick it up.  ~Henry, Trent, Martina and Emily
  • Our group came sixth in the solar boat competition but unfortunately only the top five went through to the Scienceworks competition. Our score was 52.84 seconds which was pretty good considering most of the other boats didn’t get below one minute.
  • It was difficult building the boat, sometimes people were away, sometimes we didn’t have the right materials and sometimes we just couldn’t quite co-operate. We took a while to get started building the boat with faulty designs, incorrect measurements and not having the materials we needed in time. Overall, it was a great experience and we all enjoyed the day despite all the difficulties along the way.  ~ Tahlia, Tanika, Charlie & Giordan
  • Our group was cooperative and hard-working during the stages of the Solar Boat Challenge. It was a long journey to get to the race and we all had fun. There were many different aspects of learning involved, including measurement, density, science and circuitry. Our favourite stage of the SBC was racing the boat because it was exciting. If we were to repeat the activity we would make our boat less boxy, use sticky tape to keep the solar panel down, make it lighter and incorporate more angles. It was a great experience that we enjoyed.  ~ Red, Ciara, Chloe and Zac
  • This year all the grade five students participated in The Solar Boat Challenge. It included: Teamwork, Cooperation, Communication and lots of thinking. The day of the race was the 5th of October 2016. There were only five spots in the final and there were sixteen groups competing. The groups that got in to the five finalist spots where: Project F.R.E.D, Ra, Solar sailing, Speedy Solar and Blue cube. Credit to all those groups. Those groups will race on the 15 October at Scienceworks.  ~ Kon, Tarana, Tara, Ethan