How to Build Jack’s Pop Pop Steamboat

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Introduction: How to Build Jack’s Pop Pop Steamboat

Hi, my name is Jack. I’m a seventh grade student, and I am building a pop pop steamboat for school. The goal of my project is to move a ping pong ball across 30 inches of water by building a powered boat out of household materials. I am doing this with a piece of wood, a copper pipe and a tea light candle. A patent for the first pop pop boat was filed in 1891 by a Frenchman named Thomas Piot in the UK using a small boiler and 2 exhausts.

Design:

I plan on solving the problem of moving a ping pong ball across 30” of water. I will do this by making a steamboat. I will use balsa wood, copper tubing to make a boiler, and a tea light candle for power to run the boiler. First, I will cut a piece of balsa wood into a boat shape. I will make the boiler by coiling the copper tube in the middle with 2 ends extending from it. I will drill 2 holes at an angle in the back of the boat. The 2 extended pieces of copper will be slid through the holes in the boat. I will make an indentation in the wood under the coil for the tealight candle. I will syringe water into the pipes. I will ask my teacher to light the candle. Then, I will place the boat in the water. The boat should move forward once the candle heats the copper tube boiler (about 2 minutes). I may polyurethane the wood because the wood absorbs the water.

Why:

I chose to make the pop pop steamboat because I saw it last year on youtube and I liked it but it looked difficult. This year I saw it again with a different type of boiler made out of copper tubing and it looked easier to build. I made a boat out of wood before and I knew it would float. We had tea light candles in the house so I used one to power the boat.

Supplies:

Materials:

( 1 ) 16” piece of ¼” copper tubing

( 1 ) tea light candle

( ) water

( 1) ping pong ball

( ) polyurethane

( 1) 6” X 15” piece of balsa wood

sandpaper

velcro

small dowel

Tools:

drill

syringe

paint brush

band saw

drill press

pipe bender

glue gun

x-acto knife

Teacher Notes

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Step 1:

Cut out the paper pattern from the drawing of the boat you are building.

Step 2:

Trace your drawing on the piece of wood 2 times because you will need 2 pieces of wood glued together, as the wood is thin.

Step 3:

Glue the two cut out boat pieces on top of one another and sand the edges of the boat to smooth them.

Step 4:

Use a wood bit on a drill press to cut an indentation in the top of the boat where the candle will be, a tiny bit larger than the aluminum candle holder.

Step 5:

Take your ¼ inch copper tube and bend it in the middle with a tubing bender, then continue to bend around a one inch pipe to coil the copper tube 3 times. I started it then asked my grandfather to help because the pipe started to flatten. We had to make it 2 times before it was good. It should have 2 ends about 7 inches long, extending from the coil.

Step 6:

Drill 2 holes with a drill bit a tiny bit larger than ¼ inch, about 2 inches from the back end of the boat, at an angle so the end of the holes comes out the back bottom edge of the boat.

Step 7:

Slide the 2 ends of the copper coil through the holes.

Step 8:

Position the coil above the candle hole.

Step 9:

Attach ping pong ball with velcro.

Step 10: TESTING

Fill your tub, make sure it’s more than 30 inches long. Take a syringe and fill one copper tube with water until it squirts out the other tube. Put your finger over the ends of the pipes and have someone light the candle. Place the boat in the water and wait until the coil heats up (it may take a minute or more). The boat should move forward.

Step 11: How the Pop Pop Boat Works

To make the pop pop boat work, syringe water into one pipe sticking out the back of the boat until it comes out the other side. Put a tea light candle directly under the center of the coil and place the boat in the water. Thermal energy from the candle heats the boiler through convection. The water in the pipes temperature rises and evaporates and the liquid H2O turns into a gas. As the pressure rises, the gas steam escapes through the exhaust pipes on the boat. When the gas escapes, the boat moves forward due to Newton’s 3rd law (for every action there is an opposite reaction.) Atmospheric pressure pushes water back into the boiler. The process repeats.

Step 12: RESULTS

The steamboat worked pretty well and went the 30 inches but it kind of moved toward the side of the tub near the end. The boat also soaked up water.

Step 13: MODIFICATIONS

One modification was, I polyurethaned the boat so it wouldn’t soak up water. Another, was to make a rudder to make the boat go straight. After polyurethaning, the candle kind of slipped around so I glued a peg to hold it in place. I also added a wooden popsicle stick to reinforce the back because the wood is soft and started to crack, I didn’t want the pipes to pop through the wood. I made the small rudder from a popsicle stick and attached it to the front.

Step 14: ANOTHER MODIFICATION

For another modification, I cut a couple pieces of foam pieces and glued to the bottom of the boat so it will stay up a little better and I was hoping they would help the boat go straighter.

Step 15: THOUGHTS

I feel that the boat worked well and was able to move a ping pong ball 30 inches across water. It was pretty easy to build except for the copper coil part. It did take awhile to heat up but eventually it worked. To me, it looks like it went faster without the foam pieces. I added the foam to keep the top of the boat dry and was hoping it would run straight. It didn’t make a very loud sound, probably because I used copper instead of an aluminum can. You can tell the exhaust pipes were working because you can see ripples in the water when it moves forward. Even though the pop pop boat was first built in 1891, you can still buy one today.

Step 16: SOURCES

Step 17: THANK YOU!

THANK YOU FOR WATCHING!

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    43 Discussions

    1
    None

    3 months ago

    GREAT JOB Jack!!!!! Great drawings and easy to follow directions. Can't wait to see what else you build :)

    0
    jaime_hughes
    jaime_hughes

    3 months ago

    Great job! This is impressive!

    0
    Mr-C CTMS
    Mr-C CTMS

    3 months ago

    This is great Jack. From the idea, to your efforts to create,and then you desire to look at areas to improve and then doing it. Well done.

    Mr. C

    2
    shrydvd
    shrydvd

    3 months ago

    That was really cool. Made me want to try it as well.
    I am really impressed with the way you took a problem, thought of a solution and then solved it. Especially having to go back & make improvements, corrections, etc.
    I have a feeling we'll be seeing you solve more problems in a few years. You seem to have the mind for it. Great job!

    0
    kirsten_yanco
    kirsten_yanco

    3 months ago

    Jack, this is fabulous! I’m so impressed!

    0
    DavidK60
    DavidK60

    3 months ago on Step 5

    What about putting sand into the pipe before bending it into a coil and then flush the sand out, that should stop the pipe from flattening out.

    0
    JonathanSantimore25
    JonathanSantimore25

    Reply 3 months ago

    Thank you. After I had it done I read that somewhere,

    1
    gdsmit1
    gdsmit1

    3 months ago

    Great job Jack. Nicely done making the project and modifying it as needed.
    I will say that if you are responsible enough to use that drill press, you could light the candle. I'm sure that's a school rule, though.
    Keep experimenting and building.

    0
    kdelucia
    kdelucia

    3 months ago on Step 5

    I have heard filling the pipe with water then freezing it (in a freezer) keeps it from flattening when bending. Let the ice melt out after bending.

    0
    evelyn.wightman
    evelyn.wightman

    3 months ago

    Great project! One suggestion: You mentioned syringing water into the pipe to prime it. That seems like an annoying step - maybe holding the whole boat underwater with the tubes facing up until all the air bubbled out would be easier? You might end up with air trapped in the loop which could cause problems though. Hard to say without testing it!

    0
    JonathanSantimore25
    JonathanSantimore25

    Reply 3 months ago

    That's a good idea. When the boat starts pushing out water it makes an airspace anyways which helps push the water out.

    0
    Margerausch
    Margerausch

    Tip 3 months ago on Step 5

    If you fill the Copper tube with sand, when you bend it it won’t crimp.

    0
    JonathanSantimore25
    JonathanSantimore25

    Reply 3 months ago

    Thank you for the suggestion. I will try that next time.