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OVERALL EXPECTATIONS                                        power was replaced by a massive ballast box to act
For a detailed list according to grade level, see           as a counterbalance and force of propulsion.
pages 6 and 7.
                                                            If students are using twigs or sticks, snap the
ENGAGE!                                                     pieces rather than sawing them. The use of twigs
Start by asking students to define an engine. No            and sticks in this challenge adds a touch of authen-
doubt they will come up with a modern version               ticity and could lead into a discussion of the mate-
such as: “a machine for converting thermal energy           rials available 1,000 years ago.
into mechanical energy or power to produce force
and motion.” Ask them to think more primitively             Divide the class into groups of two to four
and discuss how a catapult is an engine. Look to a          students.
good dictionary for a definition of an engine (a
children’s dictionary may be too specific). Discuss           GLOSSARY
various kinds of engines. For useful websites on              Catapult: a stone-throwing engine powered
early engines, go to: http://www.middelalder                  by teams of soldiers pulling on ropes
                                                              Trebuchet: a heavy stone-throwing engine
                                                              powered by a large counterweight
This exercise takes students back more than 1,000             Mangonel: a light stone-throwing engine
years to learn how people used the laws of physics            powered by a skein of twisted rope
and good construction techniques to develop ways
to move large rocks over great distances very
quickly. Medieval siege engines include catapults,          MATERIALS
trebuchets and mangonels, all variations on the             clothes peg or clip   scissors
mechanical engine to be built here.                         cup hooks             small sticks or branches
                                                            elastic bands         string
TEACHER INFORMATION                                         eye hooks             tape
The students will build a siege engine. Early engines       glue gun              teaspoon
were powered by hand: people pulled a rope to               hobby saw             wire
accelerate the throwing arm. Later, engine man-             knife                 wire cutters
                                                            plastic spoons        wooden dowels

MAKING A MEDIEVAL SEIGE                                     the catapult. For safety reasons, an arm length of
ENGINE                                                      not more than 30 cm is suggested, and you may
To build the main frame of the siege engine, stu-           wish to limit the number of elastics used.
dents will make two mirror image sides. Place a
24-cm stick on a bench parallel to the edge, then           RESULTS
place a second stick (18 cm) perpendicular to the           Students test the mechanical efficiency of the
first about one-third the distance from one end.            machine. How many times its length can the cata-
Glue and bind them together with string or wire.            pult throw an eraser?
Triangulate (brace) the upright with a smaller stick
as shown in the photo.
Repeat the process for the
opposite side. Stand these
finished sides upright and
place them approximately 16
cm apart.

Make four 18-cm-long cross-
bar sticks and secure them
to the side frames with glue
and wire. Position two at the
rear, one at the front and
one at the top of the
uprights as shown in the
photo. Screw a cup hook
into each upright pointing
toward the rear of the
frame, 6 cm from the base.
(This is to accept the pivot
on the throwing arm.)

To make the throwing arm,
cut a 20-cm-long stick and place a chopstick pivot          EXTENDING THE ACTIVITY
4 cm from one end to make a cruciform (cross).              The stored-up energy in the catapult’s spring need
Glue and bind them together. Glue and bind a tea-           not be used to hurl something. Gears and wheels
spoon to the long end of the cruciform and place            can be added to the catapult to leverage the
an eye hook into the shorter end. Place the pivot           engine’s energy. To make a catapult car, wind string
into the cup hooks on the uprights.                         around an axle with wheels and attach the string
                                                            to the throwing arm. As the arm is released, it will
Stretch elastic bands from the eye hook on the              pull the string which turns the wheels.
throwing arm to the rear of the catapult as shown
in the photo.Tie string to the spoon end of the
throwing arm, then fashion a quick-release trigger                         SAFETY NOTE
(e.g., clothes peg) to the back of the frame. Load            Use a designated test area, such as the
the spoon with an eraser and fire!                            gym or hallway. Students should wear
Experiment with the design to improve efficiency.             safety glasses to protect their eyes from
The length of the throwing arm and the number of              the projectiles being launched.
elastics used will govern the throwing power of

                          HEAT ENGINE
For a detailed list according to grade level, see             TEACHER INFORMATION
pages 6 and 7.                                                The heat engine works on the principle of heat
                                                              convection. As the water at the bottom of the
BACKGROUND                                                    coils heats up it rises to the top of the coils push-
Heat is the energy of moving molecules. Because               ing the water ahead of it down to the bottom of
heat is energy, it can be changed into other forms            the coils. This then heats up the new cool water,
of energy. Heat can power cars and planes, turn               repeating the cycle until the warm water is forced
turbines to make electricity and much more.                   out of the outlet, pushing the boat along. To get
                                                              the water into the tube initially, it will be necessary
The Drinking Bird, that well-loved childhood toy, is          to prime the coils by sucking water into them
an excellent example of a heat engine. It uses                using a straw or plastic pipe.
water as its fuel. The energy available from the
evaporation of one gallon of water is approximate-
ly equal to the available energy from burning one                GLOSSARY
half gallon of gasoline.                                         Convection: the circulatory motion that
                                                                 occurs in a fluid at a non-uniform tempera-
There are two main kinds of fuel-burning heat                    ture owing to the variation of its density
engines: external combustion, such as steam                      and the action of gravity
engines, where the fuel is burned outside the
engine’s moving parts, and internal combustion,
such as jet engines and car gasoline engines, where           Boiling water to make steam to drive a mechanism
fuel is burned inside.                                        is dangerous in the classroom. For safety reasons,
                                                              this challenge uses a tea light candle as the heat
In the 18th and 19th century, the power that drove            source.Warn the students that this is not a speed
the Industrial Revolution was the steam engine. Its           boat; they should test it in a basin or water table
uses varied from driving the great machines of                and exercise lots of patience.
industry to transportation in the forms of locomo-
tives, steam ships and traction engines. Steam                Have groups of two to four students build an
engines are still used in present-day nuclear power           external combustion engine to power a boat.
stations. In this application decaying nuclear fission
is the fuel source that drives the steam engine.

                                                                                 Proceed to form four or five
                                                                                 coils around the handle, bring-
                                                                                 ing the free end of the copper
                                                                                 tubing down parallel to the
                                                                                 other end. Measure 4 cm from
                                                                                 each end of the tubing and
                                                                                 mark with a pen.

                                                                                  Using the end of your thumb,
                                                                                  bend the tubing to a large
                                                                                  radius 90-degree L shape at
                                                                                  the bottom of the coils. One
                                                                                  end of the tubing will be the
MATERIALS                                                   engine’s intake; the other will be the outlet and will
2 small plastic water bottles                               point to the back of your boat. (Check photo for
4 chopsticks or wooden dowels                               details.) Fix the copper coils to the deck, as
50 cm thin copper tubing (found in hardware                 shown, leaving space beneath for the candle.
stores, used for repairing refrigerators)
broom handle                                                RESULTS
elastic bands                                               Students evaluate the design and identify modifica-
flat piece of wood 15 cm x 3 cm x 0.5 cm thick              tions to improve effectiveness while learning how
glue gun                                                    energy is transferred to a specific output.
small saw
                                                            EXTENDING THE ACTIVITY
tea light candle
                                                            What other designs can the class come up with?
water table or water tank
                                                            What other materials can be used to build the
                                                            boat? The coil can be attached to boats of other
MAKING A HEAT ENGINE BOAT                                   design. Ask the students to discuss what other
The heat engine is a simple copper coil arrange-            fuels could be used. Could the same heat coil be
ment. To make the coils, you will need a broom              used to build a heat turbine (i.e., a Christmas orna-
handle to use as a forming guide. Note: If copper           ment that turns when a candle is burned)?
tubing is bent at a right angle with a sharp corner, the
tubing will kink and collapse, creating a blockage.
                                                                         SAFETY NOTE
Measure 10 cm from one end of the copper tube                   This is an open flame activity. Please
and mark with a pen. This is the point at which
                                                                ensure that students respect the fact
you will start bending to make the coils. Place the
copper tubing across the broom handle at 90                     that they are working with fire.
degrees, with the short end pointing down.

                   CHEMICAL ENGINE
OVERALL EXPECTATIONS                                        plunger). The piston starts at the top of the cylin-
For a detailed list according to grade level, see           der. The piston moves down and draws a tiny
pages 6 and 7.                                              droplet of gasoline and air into the cylinder. The
                                                            intake valve closes (cover the tip of the syringe
ENGAGE!                                                     with your finger) and the piston pushes up into the
Invite students to imagine what our life would be           cylinder to compress the fuel/air mixture. A spark
like without chemical (combustion) engines. More            ignites the gasoline, which explodes, forcing the
than 100 years ago, external combustion engines             piston down. The exhaust valve opens (uncover
used a variety of fuels to produce steam-powered            the tip of the syringe) and the piston pushes up
boats and trains (see Challenge 2). Reciprocating           into the cylinder, forcing the exhaust to go out the
internal combustion engines now power cars,                 tail pipe. The exhaust valve closes and the intake
buses, lawnmowers and snowmobiles. Gas turbines             valve opens. The cylinder is ready to repeat the
power jets. Rocket engines launch satellites and            cycle over and over. There is a great moving dia-
the space shuttle into orbit. What is combustion?           gram of a working piston and cylinder at
See Engine and Energy Basics on page 5.           

What fuels are used in these four types of com-             The reciprocating motion of the piston is con-
bustion engines? What machines are powered by               verted to rotational motion in the crankshaft
each of these engines? What are the effects of              through the connecting rod. The connecting rod
combustion engines on the environment? Use such             joins the piston to the crankshaft with a pivot at
websites as to gather
information on combustion engines. Additional                 GLOSSARY
websites are listed under Teacher Resources on                Reciprocating Motion – movement of an
page 23.                                                      object alternately backward and forward in a
                                                              straight line (e.g., moving a piston up and down
BACKGROUND                                                    in a cylinder)
Most of today’s automobiles use the combustion of
                                                              Rotational Motion – movement of an object
a liquid fuel, such as gasoline, to power a recipro-
                                                              in a circular manner about an axis (e.g., rotat-
cating internal combustion engine. Imagine an
                                                              ing a wheel)
engine cylinder with a piston (like a syringe with a

each end so that the connecting rod is free to               oxygen at high temperature and pressure (in
change angles as the piston moves up and down                engine cylinders) to produce nitrogen dioxide.
and as the crankshaft rotates. This rotational               Some hydrocarbons remain in a vaporized (gas)
motion is transferred to the axle and wheels to              state.Water is harmless as is carbon dioxide in
propel the vehicle. The Newton’s Apple website               small amounts. In large amounts, carbon dioxide
has a good overview of how a car engine works,               (also known as the greenhouse gas) is blamed for
including directions on how to build a model of a            global warming. Sulfur dioxide combines with
piston/crankshaft system. See              water in the air to produce acid rain. Nitrogen
newtons/15/carengines.html.                                  dioxide and the remaining hydrocarbons react in
                                                             the presence of sunlight to produce smog.
Gas turbine engines are powered by burning a
gaseous or liquid fuel, such as propane, natural gas,        TEACHER INFORMATION
kerosene or jet fuel, in pressurized air. The hot,           The students will build a wheeled vehicle, which is
pressurized gas that is produced spins a turbine.            driven by a reaction (water rocket) engine. The
The linear motion of the exhaust gas is convert-             fuel is baking soda and vinegar which reacts chemi-
ed to rotational motion in the turbine. Gas turbine          cally to produce an exhaust gas of carbon dioxide.
engines are smaller than a reciprocating engine of           The mass of the exhaust is increased (to increase
the same power; however, they are much more                  the forward thrust of the vehicle) by adding water,
expensive.This and the fact that gas turbines use            which is forced out of the neck of the bottle by
more fuel when idling are the main reasons that              the pressurized carbon dioxide.
they are not used in motor vehicles.
                                                             Ask groups of two to four students to design and
                                                             build a wheeled vehicle with a water rocket engine
                                                             capable of travelling three metres.
  Linear Motion – movement of an object in
  a straight line (e.g., rolling a ball)                     MATERIALS
                                                             2-litre plastic pop bottles
Rocket engines operate on a different principal              adhesive
than the other types of engines, which produce               axles (dowel, coat hanger wire)
rotational energy. Rocket engines are driven by              baking soda
Newton’s second law which states that “for every             boxes
action there is an equal and opposite reaction”.             buckets
When rocket fuel (liquid or solid) burns, it pro-            cardboard
duces a hot, high-pressure gas. The mass of the              construction kits, such as K’NEX
exhaust gas discharged from the back of the rock-            cutting tools
et causes the rocket to fly in the opposite direc-           funnels
tion (linear motion). A good demonstration of this           glue guns
principal is the release of an inflated balloon.The          plastic
release of air out the back of the balloon causes            safety glasses
the balloon to fly forward.                                  scissors
Liquid fuels, such as gasoline, diesel, kerosene and         screws
fuel oil, and such gaseous fuels as natural gas and          string
propane, are hydrocarbons made mostly of carbon              vinegar
and hydrogen with sulfur also present. When gaso-            water
line is ignited, the carbon, hydrogen and sulfur             wheels (manufactured or homemade; juice can lids
react with oxygen in air to produce carbon diox-                 work well)
ide, water and sulfur dioxide, which are all gases.          wood
Nitrogen, which is also present in air, reacts with

                                                       MAKING A LAUNCHER
                                                       Join the two boards in the shape of a T, using the
                                                       door hinge as a connector. Drill a 1/4” hole, in the
                                                       center of the horizontal part of the “T”, 1 cm from
                                                       the edge of the hinge. Use No. 10 screws.
One launcher shared by class:
                                                       Put the bolt through the stopper (narrow end
 2 pieces 1” x 4” wood approx. 30 cm (12") long
                                                       first), the hole in the wood (from the side to which
 1 door hinge
                                                       the hinge is not attached), and the washer. Attach
 4 1 1/2" (3.8cm) corner braces (L-brackets)
                                                       the nut. Students may have to drill the top hole
 1 1/4” x 2 1/2" (6.2 cm) bolt, washer and nut
                                                       larger in each of the L-brackets so that the spike
 1 #3 1-hole rubber stopper (available from
                                                       can slide in and out easily.
 school science supply catalogues)
 6 No.10 screws                                        Open the hinge so that the two pieces of wood
 8 No.6 screws                                         are relatively flat with the stopper pointed up.
 3 15 cm (minimum) spikes or aluminum tent             Position a 2-litre pop bottle on the rubber stop-
 pegs                                                  per. Position the four L-brackets so that when a
 3 m strong cord                                       spike is passed through the top holes of the L-
 drill and bits                                        bracket, the spike sits over the lip on the neck of
 screwdriver                                           the pop bottle (see photo above). It is best to

attach one L-bracket at a time and retest the posi-           A mess will be created when these vehicles are
tioning before attaching the next L-bracket. Use              launched, so it is best to do it outdoors. Choose a
No. 6 screws.                                                 smooth surface into which you can hammer a
                                                              spike to hold the launcher in place (e.g., a baseball
Cut a 30 cm length of cord. Melt the ends with a
                                                              diamond). If this is not available, use a transition
match or lighter so they don’t fray. Tie each end
                                                              area (e.g., position the launcher on the grass right
to a spike. Tie the remaining cord to the middle of
                                                              next to a paved area where the vehicle can run).
the 30 cm cord. Drill a hole in the center of the
                                                              Have some sessions outside during the construc-
board that is the vertical part of the T. It should be
                                                              tion phase of the project so students can test their
large enough to accommodate the remaining spike.
                                                              vehicles for design modifications.
                                                              The teacher and/or a group of students should set
                                                              design standards such as vehicle size, dimension
ENGINE VEHICLE                                                limits, time to complete the prototype and testing
In the photographs (on page 15), one vehicle is               period, vehicle weight restrictions and materials or
made of a clementine box with juice can lids for              any other criteria the group decides to impose.
wheels and one is constructed of K’NEX. (Keep in              The group can increase the complexity of the
mind that smooth wheels offer less resistance than            activity by adding more criteria.
textured wheels.) Both vehicles are built around a
2-litre pop bottle engine.                                    RESULTS
The pop bottle must be angled in the vehicle so               Students repeatedly test their designs and observe
that the water will be pushed out by the pressure             the way their vehicles behave.They record their
of the gas. However, it is desirable to keep the              difficulties and describe how they were able to
angle as low as possible to maximize the horizon-             correct design problems.
tal thrust. Have the students experiment with their
pop bottles and water in a sink (or outside) to               EXTENDING THE ACTIVITY
determine the optimum angle.                                  An evaluation committee could award certificates
                                                              of merit to vehicles that were able to complete
LOADING A CHEMICAL ENGINE                                     certain tasks. Students can experiment with differ-
• Use 500 mL water, 4 heaping soupspoons baking               ent amounts of water, baking soda and vinegar to
  soda, 125 mL vinegar                                        maximize the distance the vehicle will travel.
• Designate "wet" and "dry" funnels. They are not
• Pour water through the "wet" funnel into the
  pop bottle.
• Pour baking soda through the "dry" funnel into
  the pop bottle.
• Have the launcher ready to attach to the pop
• Pour vinegar through the "wet" funnel into the
  pop bottle.                                                                SAFETY NOTE
• Immediately, insert the rubber-stopper on the                   The launch MUST be done outside.
  launcher into the bottle.
                                                                  The engines will launch with great force.
• Insert the two spikes through the L-brackets to
  hold the bottle in place.                                       Make sure the bottle is securely fastened to
• Take as much time as you need to position the                   the vehicle. If the pop bottles detach, they
  launcher and vehicle.                                           can fly a significant distance. Make sure the
• Hammer the third spike into the ground and                      track is clear of students and do not launch
  make sure the track is clear.
                                                                  toward windows.
• Pull the cord and "let ’er rip".

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