Student Websites

Order of Finish (From Fastest to Slowest)

What Happened

We attempted to see if the shape of sea creatures has a direct effect on their swim speed. In real life, many factors influence the rate at which these creatures swim. For example, the creature’s genetics and how efficient its fin movement is. We were interested to find that these results reflected the order of the real speeds of these species. We were also surprised that the results were so consistent. For example, the dolphin had the fastest time for all of the trials and the orca was the second fastest in all the trials etc. The order in the speed of the real life creatures is the dolphin, the orca, shark, and the puffer fish.  Our hypothesis was almost correct except we predicted that the shark would be faster than the orca. According to our data, the orca was clearly faster than the shark.

As with all experiments, there was error throughout the trials. On this (hyperlink to videos) video, the objects sometimes hit the sidewall of the pool. This causes the fishing line holding the animals to swing in a circle. As a result, it slows the results and creates error in the results. If one object hit the wall more often and/or harder than the others, the data might be incorrect. This is why multiple trials are tested to take into account the possibility of bad data.  Finally, there is a human element of error in our project.  The timer was not stopped or started at the exact same time as the object broke the water. As a result of this error, the times could have been affected, making the average not reflect to the animal’s real speed in real life.

We mathematically checked to see what the percentage error in our results was. The percent-error is the amount of error in each average put into a percent. The percent error of the dolphin is 1.69% and the margin of error is plus or minus .076 seconds. The puffer fish’s percent error was 3.8% and the margin of error is plus or minus .266 seconds. It is clear that the puffer fish was the slowest and it had the most time for error in its results to occur by almost .266 seconds. So, we can conclude that the margin of error would not have affected the order of the results. Click Here To See Full Results Page

What would we change?

If we could change our experiment, we would have made a pulley system that could stretch over the middle of the pool. This would eliminate the chance of the objects hitting the walls.  In addition, we would test more objects to see how the speed would change over various species.  Something that we would advise to future groups is to add the element of scale.  Making the objects to scale would take into account that not all sea creatures are the same size. For instance, an orca whale is significantly larger than a puffer fish, yet in our experiment they were similar in size.

What does it have to do with scuba diving?

Hydrodynamics is very applicable to scuba diving. Scuba divers have always searched for equipment that will help them achieve equal buoyancy as easily as possible.  It is sort of the holy grail of scuba diving, something that every diver searches for.  The technology of the scuba equipment is widely recognized as beginning with the invention of Emile Gagnan and Jacques Cousteau. They created the first “modern” scuba equipment, and since there have been many improvements for scuba equipment.  Learning about certain animals and how the shapes of their body improve their ability to streamline through the water, can help scuba manufacturers in the future.  Changing the shape of a scuba tank or the flexibility of fins can go a long way in helping divers move through the water much easier.  In the future, researchers might find that it would be better to shape a scuba tank similar in a different shape, such as a dolphin’s, fin.  Nevertheless, hydrodynamics will always be an integral part in the scuba diving, especially as it relates to how much the diving experience is enjoyed.