Introduction: The Mighty Cork Barge Game

About: The Maker Studio is a museum makerspace at Science City in Kansas City, MO. To see more of our creations follow us on Instagram @The_Maker_Studio or @ScienceCityKC

What is a barge?

A barge is a type of flat-bottomed boat that is used to transport goods on rivers and canals. First barges were towed by horses who led the boat down rivers by pulling them. Now they are self-propelled and run on their own engines making it so they can carry much more weight in less time.

How much can one barge hold?

An average American barge can hold 1,500 tons or 3,000,000 pounds of weight. That is like having over 230 full grown elephants on one barge!

In this instructable you will be making a small cork barge and seeing how strong and how much weight your creation can hold.

Why do corks float?

Floating or sinking of an object does not depend on its weight, it depends upon its density. Things denser than water sink in water whereas things having less mass than water float on it.


Cork – Several corks long round ones work best. Those with the mushroom head could be used, but you will need to flip them opposite each other to create a strong structure.

Hot glue gun – Any type will work just fun be sure to have parental supervision. You cannot use any water soluble glue like Elmer's glue because it will melt away when put in water.

Testing supplies:

Large bowl or sink – A large bowl is a great option so you do not need to fill it will as much water.

Water – Enough to fill your bowl or sink well enough to place your barge in without touching the bottom or the edges.

Weights – You will want to pick small items that can easily stack, things that have different heaviness, and items that are water resistant.


Small scale – A kitchen scale or small mailing scale. This is used if you want to know exactly how much weight your barge can hold.

Step 1: Connect the Corks Together

Start by seeing how many used corks you have around the house. Be sure to ask your adult if there are any you can use, and don't remove any from bottles yourself.

Lay them out trying to make a large flat surface. You will need to move them around and see how large you want to go on your first try. There are no wrong ideas here so be sure to have fun.

With your glue gun, glue together all the corks keeping it flat on the table while you do it. This will help keep them as level as possible so you have a good base to stack your items on top.

Leave plenty of time for the hot glue to cool before you try moving it. Patience is key for this step!

For those using mushroom top corks you will want to lay them opposite tops to bottoms so that they make a straight line not a semi-circle.

Step 2: Testing the Barge

In this last step you will want an area that is okay if you get water around your station. Great places to do this are your back or front porch, in your shower or tub, in the kitchen or bathroom sink, etc.

Have all of your plastic waterproof toys ready to slowly add to your barge one by one.

Think of it as reverse Jenga and try to get as many items on as you can. Weight will play a big part on how long your barge can stay afloat, but balancing the items from middle outwards will allow you to get the most on at at time.

At some point your barge will sink with the weight of your items though. When that happens stop adding new items and then remove those that sunk. Count how many you were able to get on and keep trying several times placing them on different spots and in different orders.

For those who want to know exactly how much weight their barge can hold use a kitchen or small postal scale to weigh all of the toys that sunk into the water.

Step 3: Making It Bigger, Stronger, and Better

Once you’ve gotten the hang of creating your barge try making it even larger in your next model.
Does adding sides help or make it sink faster? Does making a perfectly flat surface on top of the cork help or make it heavier?

See what the limits of your cork are and your ability to balance the items.

Keep a running tally with those in your household to see who can get the most on. The person who gets the most weight on the barge before it sinks wins!

For more information about Science City, visit or follow us on Facebook @ScienceCityKC. Remember, to tag us or hashtag #ScienceCityKC or @The_Maker_Studio on Instagram.