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Sinking ships

The development of boats and ships has shaped mankind over the centuries, as it has made it possible to explore distant lands and establish trade relations. Unfortunately, however, this important milestone for mankind brings with it a major problem: the increasing pollution of the world's oceans. Boats and ships are also a major contributor to the formation of oil slicks and the accumulation of huge amounts of plastic waste in our oceans, which were once an endless source of inspiration and food. This poses a serious threat to the marine ecosystem and ultimately to us. The emission-free electric ship Yara Birkeland from Norway, the Pyxis Ocean with huge sails or the kite-powered ship Ville de Bordeaux, but also the freighter E-Ship 1 equipped with Flettner rotors, show that new, ecological developments are also a topical issue in the field of shipbuilding. In addition, projects such as The Ocean Clean Up, Everwave and SeeKuh look at how waste already in the sea can be collected and returned to the material cycle.

Take up the challenge of a cleaner environment and demonstrate in your contribution to this year's school competition "Sinking Ships" that you can build a ship that can not only meet the challenges of the load capacity, but also consists solely of materials that can be found in the yellow bin. This recycling concept helps to protect the oceans from further pollution and proves that innovation and environmental protection can go hand in hand. As a result, "Sinking Ships" is not just about the competition itself, but also about the message that we all have a responsibility for our planet and therefore also for our oceans. Good luck building your eco-friendly ship and competing!

The task

Build a ship from materials that you find in the yellow bin. The aim is for the ship to float for as long as possible when loaded with weights.


How do we test your ship?

The load capacity of your ship will play the most important role here, as it depends on how much weight it can carry without sinking. To do this, we place the ship in a basin of water. We then place weights on the marked placeholder (10 cm x 10 cm). The weight load is increased until the ship sinks. The jury will also check the ship for compliance with the rules. Entries without a protocol will be excluded from the awarding of prizes.

What needs to be considered?

  • Only materials from the yellow bin may be used. You can find out more about this here
  • The materials may be cut and pinned. They may only be glued with office tape (W: max. 20 mm).
  • Size restriction for the hull: L: max. 30 cm x W: max. 20 cm (tolerance ± 0.5 cm)
  • A placeholder for weights measuring 10 cm x 10 cm must be marked.
  • Note that the ship must be handed over to us in assembled condition.
  • Pay attention to the transportability of your ship.
  • The buoyancy of the ship is tested with the addition of weights.


  • No use of glue

Eligibility to participate

Pupils from all general and vocational schools are eligible to take part. Both individual and group performances are permitted. Employees of the "Student Competition" project and their relatives are not eligible to take part.


The construction of the ship must be documented in detail. Write a protocol (max. 5 pages DIN A4) with the help of the protocol template.

As always, there are great things to win!

" Poseidon - The Unsinkable " 
Build the ship with the maximum load capacity among all entries to win the main prize.

" Master Shipyard " 
The ship in a group with the highest load capacity wins the group prize.

" Logbook Pro " 
Submit the best, most accurate and meticulous log and secure the log prize.

" Fashion Fleet " 
Win the creative prize for the most creative ship design or construction.

You can win:

  • Action camera
  • eBook reader
  • Voucher for a trip on the water
  • Bluetooth photo printer

The winners of the four prizes will also be invited to an exclusive research day at the TU Bergakademie Freiberg. Together with real scientists, you can produce your own materials, carry out various tests on materials and look forward to lots of surprises.

Submission deadline**

Send your ship by 22 April 2024 to the 
Institute for Metal Forming
Bernhard-von-Cotta Str. 4
09599 Freiberg

* The entries will be judged by a jury. Legal recourse is excluded.

** By participating in the student competition, participants (in the case of minors, the 
respective legal guardian) agree that the personal data provided during the competition, photos of the participants at the research day and their samples may be published free of charge and without restriction by TU Bergakademie Freiberg, its partners and in the press for the purposes of organising the competition and for press and public relations work (including the Internet and social media). This consent can be revoked at any time with effect for the future at carina [dot] petzold [at] imf [dot] tu-freiberg [dot] de

Contact us

Prof. Dr.-Ing. habil. Horst Biermann

biermann [at] ww [dot] tu-freiberg [dot] de (biermann[at]ww[dot]tu-freiberg[dot]de) 
03731 39 3564

Annett Wolf (Coordinator/Registration)

awolf [at] ww [dot] tu-freiberg [dot] de (awolf[at]ww[dot]tu-freiberg[dot]de)
03731 39 2730

Carina Petzold (technical questions)

carina [dot] petzold [at] imf [dot] tu-freiberg [dot] de (carina[dot]petzold[at]imf[dot]tu-freiberg[dot]de)
03731 39 3699