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Activity: Evaluating Cargo Transportation

NGSS Crosscutting Concepts:


  • Tables 8.4–8.7
  • Access to information about cargo conveyances
  • Globe, map, or mapping software

Table 8.7. Cargo conveyances
Conveyance type Conveyance examples
Water-going Rowboat
Dinghy with outboard motor
Fishing vessel
Passenger ferry
Container ship
Air-going Blimp
Single propeller plane
Jet engine powered plane
Land-going Passenger car
Container truck


  1. Choose at least one of the distance scenarios listed in Table 8.4.
    1. Using a map or mapping software, estimate the distance for the chosen scenario.
    2. Record in Table 8.4.
  2. Choose at least one of the cargo scenarios listed in Table 8.5.
    1. Using resources available to you, estimate the weight of your cargo.
    2. Record in Table 8.5.
  3. For the distance and cargo scenario you choose, determine criteria, in addition to fuel efficiency and carrying capacity, for evaluating different types of cargo conveyances in terms of efficiency. (Note that in water-going cargo conveyances, carrying capacity is commonly referred to as tonnage).
    1. Choose at least two or more additional criteria to investigate.
    2. Record in Table 8.6.
  4. For each of your criteria listed in Table 8.6, justify why each criteria is important for determining transportation efficiency. Record your justification in Table 8.6.
  5. Choose three of the cargo conveyances listed in Table 8.7, and record them in Table 8.6. Using the resources available to you, investigate the criteria for each of the cargo conveyances you choose.
    1. Rank your criteria in terms of importance and record in Table 8.6.
    2. Based on your criteria, determine which of the cargo conveyances was the best for the cargo and distance scenarios you chose.
    3. Discuss your findings.
  6. (Optional) Investigate the efficiency of cargo transport for additional
    1. distance scenarios.
    2. cargo scenarios.
    3. cargo conveyances.


Activity Questions: 
  1. Describe the engineering problem(s) that this activity addresses.
  2. Explain what factors helped you to determine the relative rankings of your criteria. Which of your criteria ranked the highest? Why?
  3. Explain your process for determining which cargo conveyance was the most appropriate for the cargo and distance scenario(s) you choose.
  4. Describe how you determined the values for each criterion, including these factors in your answer:
    1. What sources did you use?
    2. Did you use the same source for each criterion?
    3. Were there representative cargo conveyance types that you used?
    4. Did you use specific values or a range of values?
  5. Would you change the rankings for each of the criteria based on your research? Explain the reasoning for your answer.
  6. Was the most fuel-efficient cargo conveyance always the best cargo conveyance based on your criteria? Explain why you think it was or wasn’t.
  7. Compare and contrast the following human impacts on the environment among your cargo conveyances:
    1. Pollution
    2. Sound
    3. Fuel type
    4. Fuel efficiency
    5. Structures needed to load and unload cargo (i.e. harbors or piers)
    6. Impact on marine life
  8. How do you think your cargo conveyance selection process would change if your most important criteria was human impact on the ocean?
Exploring Our Fluid Earth, a product of the Curriculum Research & Development Group (CRDG), College of Education. University of Hawaii, 2011. This document may be freely reproduced and distributed for non-profit educational purposes.