Mechanical engineering may sound complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Kids possess an innate curiosity to question how things work, and mechanical engineering is an extension of that curiosity. Want to discover what makes an object move, how much light passes through an object, or uncover the secret of flying?
Albert Einstein once said, “Scientists investigate that which already exists; Engineers create that which has never been.”
So, if you have a little inventor in your family, mechanical engineering projects might be a great way to spend time together, while learning and discovering new ways of doing things. Here are three ideas to get you started.
Construct a LEGO® Lantern
It is amazing what someone can build with LEGO®, especially when they use their imagination. LEGO® can stay with a person through to adulthood, and many professional architects and civil engineers readily admit they still play with LEGO® and use it to break through creative blocks or to visualise a project.
– LEGO® bricks and small base
– LED tea light or fairy lights
– White parchment paper and twine
1. Build your LEGO® lantern. You can keep it as simple or complex as you like, but you’ll need walls with windows and a roof. If you have hinges, add these to your roof so that you can open and close it easily to insert the light.
2. Cut a piece of parchment that will fit into your lantern to cover any window openings from the inside.
3. Remove or open the roof of your lantern.
4. Switch on the light and set it in the centre of the house.
5. Cut a length of twine to use as a handle and lay it across the top of the walls.
6. Replace or close the roof and press everything tightly into place.
7. Tie your handle with a tight knot and you are all done!
Build a Milk Jug Igloo
Kids love to hide in cubbies, dens, caves, and forts.
Here is a fort building idea to get your kids inspired Plastic milk jug bottles often end in landfill,
but they are the perfectly shaped building blocks for igloo building!
Plastic milk jug bottles, thin rope and a hot glue gun.
1. Collect plastic milk jug bottles. The more the better! Especially if you want to build an Igloo big enough to fit two or three children (and maybe an adult) into.
2. Clean the bottles by rinsing them with warm water and dishwashing soap.
3. Lay the bottles out into a circle to determine the circumference of the Igloo. Keep a three foot wide gap open as an entrance.
4. Tie the bottles together by threading thin rope though the handles, knotting each handle before proceeding to the next bottle. It’s kind of like a giant plastic milk-jug necklace!
5. Build the walls and dome-shaped roof by repeating the previous step as many times as you like until reaching the desired wall height. With each layer, connect two or three bottles less; this will ensure the Igloo’s circumference gets smaller towards the top.
6. Once you have reached the desired height, use a hot glue gun to connect the remaining plastic bottles in a dome-shaped fashion; this will create the roof.
Design a Popsicle Stick Catapult
What kid doesn’t want to launch something across the room? Build a catapult to develop this love even more (and use cotton balls to prevent accidental injuries – especially if you end up in the firing line!). Before building a popsicle stick catapult, you can show your child the concept
using a spoon. Press on one spoon end, and the other end lifts up. You can’t make an easier catapult than that.
– 7 popsicle sticks
– 3 rubber bands
– A milk cap
– Cotton balls (or other objects to launch) and a hot glue gun
1. Stack 5 popsicle sticks together and rubber band the ends.
2. Stack 2 craft sticks together, and wrap a rubber band around one end. Separate the 2 craft sticks. Place the stack of 5 craft sticks between the 2 craft sticks.
3. Wrap a rubber band around all the craft sticks to hold the catapult together.
4. Glue the milk cap onto the top popsicle stick to serve as a launching platform.
5. Push down on the top craft stick and release to launch an object from the milk cap. You can also create a target with a bucket, cardboard box, or any other large container to aim your catapult in a specific direction.
6. Experiment with different launch materials and see how their weight or shape affects their ability to fly through the air!