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How I Built a Boat

A motor boat built by a 9 year old Acton Academy student

I really wanted to make a boat, but I wanted to make it myself, so my dad and I looked for a simple boat project that I could do all by myself. We found a video of a plywood boat with an electric motor that a guy named Paul Elkins made that looked simple enough to make and it was also small. When we went to Paul Elkins’ website ( we saw an even less complicated coroplast boat that he had made. We knew that the coroplast boat would be easier and cool to build, so I decided to build that one instead.

What is coroplast? Coroplast is a plastic material that you can fold just like cardboard, but it is waterproof. The hull is made from a folded piece of coroplast with a piece of plywood for the transom (the flat part on the back of the boat). I used PVC to act as the gunwhales (pieces on the outside that hold the boat together) and thwart (the middle cross-piece) to keep the boat sides together. I also made a steering wheel out of PVC that I attached to the motor with string and pulleys. I found the motor for $30 on craigslist. It is an electric trolling motor, which goes on the back of a boat that allows a boat to move through the water quietly. It is a working boat that anyone that is under or around 300lbs could ride around in.

First, we watched the video lots and lots of times to figure out what the folds would be. I even made a model boat out of a sheet of strong paper to see what it would be like. Then we got a sheet of 4’x8′ coroplast and marked where we would fold and cut it. We cut a slanted edge on both sides of the long edges so the stern would be lower than the bow. Next, my brother and I used a hairdryer to heat the coroplast so we could fold the creases with a creasing tool. We folded the boat like you fold origami and my dad helped me attach the plywood to the back.

Our carpenter friend Mark used a table saw to cut long slits all the way down each piece of PVC. I put the PVC pieces on the outside edges of the boat to make the gunwales. I used PVC “T” connectors to make the thwarts that hold the boat together. Then, I drilled holes in the end pieces of the bow and used a piece of copper wire to keep the bow together.

Before we put the motor on, I tested it with a paddle to make sure it didn’t leak, then I made a steering wheel out of PVC and attached it to the front thwart T connector. We put the trolling motor on the back and attached it to the front steering wheel with rope and pulleys. Finally, we attached the motor to the battery and I went for a test run in our pool. We even took it to Lady Bird Lake and tried it out there.

My dad helped me with some of the cutting to keep me safe and helped with the gluing because he didn’t want it to hurt my nose. My brother helped with the creasing and folding and some of the cutting of the PVC. Our friend Mark helped us with cutting some of the PVC because I couldn’t make the cuts with the table saw.

If I made another boat, I would make it out of plywood with a flat bottom so it wouldn’t be so tipsy. I learned that building a boat this way is very unstable when you’re in the water. I got really frustrated and wanted to quit the whole idea when I tipped over when I was testing whether or not the boat would leak. Even though it was frustrating sometimes and it is more tipsy than I thought it would be, I am proud of the fact that I was able to drive it around Lady Bird Lake because it made me feel like I really accomplished something and made a real boat.


There will be an opportunity to make folded paper boats like the model I made, which is exactly how we made the coroplast version. *Very easy!

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