Question Sheet: Are Propellers Fin-ished?


Before reading:

  1. Name three animals that have flippers. 
  2. Why are submarines useful? 
  3. What is “aquabatics”?

During reading:

  1. Why are scientists looking at penguins to improve submarines? 
  2. What is the advantage of flexible materials for water vehicles? 
  3. Describe PilotFish. 
  4. Explain the effect of turbulent water on most underwater vehicles. Why is the PilotFish different? 
  5. How are scientists researching the role of a whale flipper’s scalloped edge? 
  6. What is the advantage of pedaling rather than rowing a kayak?

After reading:

  1. What other animals might it be useful for engineers to study in the search to improve transportation? Why? 
  2. Why is it important for people to be able to look at the underwater parts of bridges? 
  3. Think of a commercial use not mentioned in this article for a new, more agile water vehicle. Why would people want to buy such a watercraft? 
  4. How might underwater vehicles need to be different for different locations? For example, why wouldn’t a boat able to travel on a crowded river with lots of other boats be suitable for traveling along a rocky, stormy seacoast? 
  5. Go to a local aquarium or zoo and pick an aquatic animal. Spend at least 5 minutes watching it. Describe its motions as carefully as you can. Include a drawing, if you wish. 
  6. Compare the difficulties of designing an ideal vehicle for water with the difficulties of designing an ideal vehicle for land. What different problems must each vehicle overcome?


Check into the history of the submarine. See (Captain Brayton Harris).

  1. When was the first description of a submarine published? Who was the ruler of England at that time? 
  2. Who built the first working submarine? When? 
  3. What was the name of the first submarine in the U.S. Navy, placed into service in 1862?


  1. Pretend that you are trying to market underwater vehicles, such as the PilotFish, to advertisers. Write a “pitch,” or justification, for why these new boats are going to help people and sell well. 
  2. What if you wanted to sell the same underwater vehicle to the military? How would you change your pitch?


Ten men can build two boats in 4 days. How many men are needed to build five boats in 2 days?