Only You Can Help Save Sam


Only You Can Help Save Sam!



Sam has been spending his summer boating on the great lakes.  However, he’s not too bright (after all, the brains of worms are pretty small).  He’s never learned how to swim, and he never wears his life preserver.  The worst has happened!  His boat has capsized and he’s stuck!  Fortunately, his life preserver is in the boat, but unfortunately he does not know how to reach it without falling off and drowning.

Save Sam!!




Use the Scientific Method to:



How can you and your partner save Fred using only 4 paper clips. You may not touch Fred, the boat, or the life preserver directly with your hands.



·        Gummy Worm

·        Gummy life preserver

·        1 Plastic Cup

·        4 Paper Clips



1.      Work with your partner and “Save Fred”.

2.    Follow the rules.

§        Fred, the boat, the life preserver can be touched only with the paper clips.  NO HANDS.

3.    Develop a data section that includes

§        Diagrams of how you saved Fred

§        A detailed protocol describing the diagrams.

4.    Homework:

§        Analyze and conclude the experiment.

·        This means that you must discuss (tell me what you think) about the difficulty of the task, what other strategies you and your partner worked on before you succeeded, and what you think the critical steps were for solving this problem.

§        Although this is working backwards, and not how scientists normally work, please develop a hypothesis for this lab.  (Remember that a hypothesis is an ‘if-then’ statement: if I do this, then this will happen)























Teacher Notes:

Fred sits on the inverted cup.  The cup sits covering the life preserver on the tabletop.  No real water is involved.  If the group size is 3 or 4, each person gets only 1 paper clip. Have a camera ready.

There are not any real answers – since it’s more of a team-building problem solving initiative rather than a yes/no answer.  However, what they need to figure out is that if they work together, then one person maneuvers Fred (without hooking him) and the other uses the paper clips to stretch the gummy lifesaver for him to slip on.  (The lifesaver will have a smaller inner diameter than Fred’s outer diameter by a fairly obvious amount.)

Ask them typical debriefing-type questions: what worked, what didn’t, did you plan, did you share ideas, did you just mangle poor Fred trying to make it work?, etc.

Groups of 3 and make it more of a challenge by allowing only 1 paperclip per student – that takes more thought and coordination to save Fred without drowning him.  (No mouth-to0mouth resuscitation allowed!)