Sep 16: Make a jet boat

Build your own jet boat!

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Below are some talking points and activities to pass the time, all relating to today’s story.

Talking points

Discuss the ideas presented in the story with your family—at home or over video conferencing. Find ways to involve as many people as possible, especially those who you know are isolated by the lock-down.

  • Having a look through all the old photos from Bill Hamilton’s life, what clues do you get about his interests and accomplishments? What can you tell about his relationship with boats, especially from looking at his body language in the photos where he’s in a boat?
  • One of Bill’s childhood projects was making a boat trailer from a bicycle and a wooden frame; he harnessed this to his dog and trained it to pull it for him. He also made a land yacht and got in lots of trouble for going too fast on the road and scaring people’s horses. Which one of these or his other projects did you like the most?
  • As a child Bill had free range of the farm; his tutors were “farmhands, rabbiters, shepherds and blacksmiths” who “showed him how to use tools, fix things and work with the materials at hand.” He also convinced his governess and the local minister to try out his lightweight canoe (they both sank it.) What kind of kid do you think Bill was? How do you imagine him spending his time? What do you think his father and mother felt about all his projects?
  • Water-jet propulsion had been explored by a lot of people before Bill. Why do you think he kept tinkering with the idea, even though it had been rejected as impractical by so many?
  • At the end of the article, Bill Hamilton is quoted as saying that it was not himself but Archimedes that should be credited with inventing the jet engine. What do you know about Archimedes’ inventions that might have made him say this? After reading about Bill Hamilton’s life, do you think he was similar in some ways to Archimedes?

Activity: Make a jet boat

Have some fun watching this simple jet-propelled boat make its way across your bath or paddling pool.

You will need:

  • A kitchen sponge
  • Scissors
  • A balloon
  • A small piece of garden hose or similar tubing
  • A rubber band

Step One: Cut a prow shape at one end of the sponge. Cut a vertical slit close to the end of the sponge. Insert the garden hose into the slit, angling it back so that its end is toward the stern of the ‘boat.’ Carefully cover the deck-side end of the hose with the neck of the balloon and blow the balloon up. Twist it a few times to stop the air escaping.

Step Two: Take one of the offcuts of sponge and cover the hull-side of the hose with it. Secure with a rubber band (a small one would be best.) This regulates the airflow and makes your boat’s ‘engine’ last a lot longer.

Step Three: Place the boat in the water. It should ‘jet’ forward as the air pushes out of the balloon, through the tube and into the water, thrusting the boat forward. It helps if the balloon is flopping forward over the prow. If the balloon flops back, it changes the angle of the hose and makes your boat drive in reverse.

Send us a picture of you playing your jet boat!