Student-built Buoys

The NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office helps a range of students—from elementary school through high school—build buoys to introduce them to concepts behind observational platforms and to help connect them with their local ecosystem—and to help track measurements in that ecosystem.

Build-a-Buoy (BABs): Elementary and Middle School Students

Students as young as kindergarteners can learn basic principles of science, technology, engineering, and math, as well as marine navigation and observation, through Build-a-Buoy projects, where budding Bay stewards design and build the basic structure of a buoy using PVC pipe. The buoys must float in shallow water and incorporate a platform to hold golf balls or other similar objects. The students build the buoy, float it, and add golf balls until it tips over. Through this part of the exercise, the students learn concepts of buoyancy, symmetry, and balance.

When they are successful, students install an indoor/outdoor thermometer on the buoy and drop the "outdoor" sensor into the water. The buoy can then measure air and water temperature and thus becomes a simple observation buoy. Students learn that buoys have different functions: marking the boundaries of an underwater road, marking obstructions hidden underwater, and taking observations.