Master Machines

Mechanical Engineering

Program ● Interactive ● Grades 3-8

During the Mechanical Engineering unit, students use the Engineering Design Process to design, create, test, and improve a variety of machines and mechanical systems. Students learn basics of energy, traction, aerodynamics, and durability while constructing roller coasters, eggstreme defense vehicles, and an incredibly fast air-powered custom dragster.

Mechanical engineering is one of the oldest disciplines of engineering. To this day, many of the inventions from Ancient Greece, China, and the Middle East continue to be used today with few modifications. Mechanical engineers are responsible for designing parts of machinery, both on small and large scales, and maintaining these systems to achieve optimal performance.Some examples of a mechanical engineer’s responsibilities are:

  • Research new ways that parts can be designed to achieve maximum efficiency
  • Design tools that make tasks more efficient
  • Be familiar with technical and manufacturing processes
  • Have administrative or managerial skills to oversee production facilities and workers
  • Develop and test new ways to construct products
  • Follow industry standards to achieve a specified task


This pre-lesson is designed to provide students with a brief overview of technology, mechanical engineering, and the Engineering Design Process. Please refer to this pre-lesson prior to teaching lessons from the Mechanical Engineering curriculum.


Students design and improve a self-designed Robot that must have symmetrical elements, balanced parts and efficient mechanical processes to operate. Through the completion and building of a Robot from a “specifications” sheet, students experience first-hand many of the challenges Robotic engineers face. Which motor driven Ant-Droid will reach the finish line first?

Archimedes' Screw

The Archimedes’ screw is an inclined plane wrapped around a cone or cylinder. In this lesson, students will design and test this part of the machinery, learning how it can achieve maximum efficiency in the use of machinery and within mechanical processes. Students will be thrilled watching how their self-designed Archimedes’ screw can move water through plastic tubing.

Candy Catapults

The catapult activity will provide a basic knowledge of how and why catapults were first created. Students will build a simple catapult using a spoon to power their candy projectile. Students will also explore the mechanics of catapults in order to increase precision and accuracy.

Extensions are included in this lesson 
This lesson also has a camp version 
Camp: Medieval Mayhem: The Engineering of Medieval Times  
      Lesson Name: Candy Catapults

Clever Lever

In this lesson, students create their own scissor lift and learn how they work. Students will be given the opportunity to test their scissor lift to grasp items, transfer rotational motion to linear, and to reach targets before their opponents in the Clever Lever challenge.

Coasters 101

Students will use knowledge of motion and forces to successfully construct a functioning roller coaster track. Collaboration will also be an important factor in this small group activity. Students will learn that in the workplace engineers usually work in groups or teams on a project.

Extension options are included in this lesson 
There is Master Level Scaling in this lesson
This lesson also has a camp version 
Camp: Agent of Change 
      Lesson Name: Coasters 101
      Extension options are included in this lesson.
      There is Master Level Scaling in this lesson.
Camp: How Amusing 
      Lesson Name: Coasters 101
Camp: Engineering Olympiad 
      Lesson Name: Coasters 101

Custom Dragster

During this lesson, students will experience the challenge of building an air-powered vehicle that is incredibly aerodynamic. They will create a car shaped body which they will then redesign in an attempt to improve the efficiency of this vehicle in order to achieve the fastest dragster possible.

This lesson also has a camp version 
Camp: Amazing Race: The Engineering of Travel 
      Lesson Name: Cross Country Drag Race
Camp: How Amusing
      Racecars: Dragsters and Balloon Powered Cars

Egg Car Joust/Collision Challenge

Medieval times weren’t just about fighting for lands! With the sieges over, it is time for celebration and games. Jousting was a popular medieval sport, with knights on horses trying to knock each other off. The lords and ladies, instead of having a knight fight for them, will engineer a car and attempt to defeat their opponents in a joust. Students will have to understand the balance between a strong and sturdy car that will protect an egg, and one which will be able to break their opponent’s egg in this final challenge of The Engineering of Medieval Times.

This lesson has only camp version 
Camp: Medieval Mayhem
      Lesson Name: Medieval Mayhem
Camp: Momentum Madness
      Collision Challenge

Eggstreme Defense

Students will explore packaging design and construction in the Eggstreme Defense activity. Students will demonstrate their knowledge of forces and how their effects can be minimized through designing safe and effective vehicles. The egg defense vehicles will undergo numerous tests to illustrate how product testing in real life is a detailed and systematic process.

There is Master Level Scaling in this lesson
This lesson also has a camp version 
Camp: Heroes Week 
      Lesson Name: Eggstreme Drop
Camp: The Engineering of Food
      Safe Packaging


In this lesson, students learn how to create a flat conductive circuit path with a LED light feature. They learn how the concepts that are generated from elements of combing craft and technology are useful in robotic design. Students develop skills in manipulating conductive tape during the development of an electrical current path, first creating a greeting card that lights up and then a Robotic creature with a light feature of their choice.

Heave Ho!

In this lesson, the pulley, which distributes the energy needed to lift a very heavy object, is explored by students. Students use advanced building skills in creating, and testing the elements of a pulleys operation to lift heavy things.

It's a Breeze

In feudal times, owning land meant power and wealth. The power and money came from having food to grow and land that could be worked. When farmers gathered grains like wheat or oats, they would need to turn the grains into flour to use for baking things like bread. Windmills and watermills were used to grind grains down to a fine powder, to pump water into fields, or to raise and lower heavy objects. The lords and ladies will design their own windmills and watermills to improve the productivity of their lands.

Jack Splat!

Students learn about the components of a jack, how it functions, and how it can be used for making work easier. They learn how the work of a screw can be modified by extending the force to a moment arm and about how substances can affect the strength of the helical shaped threads in this lesson. Their experimentation includes testing the force of the turn of the lift jack and how the application of substances of differing viscosity effects the jack.

Marble Run

Marble Run introduces the concept of how to create a hypothesis to students. Using angles to adjust the trajectory of their marble, students will attempt to create a track that is able to guide a marble successfully to the bottom of the track and into a cup. Through design, students will create a hypothesis and then adjust a range of variables to prove the hypothesis correct.

Motorcycle Mayhem

Presently, oil is in short supply but in the future, oil has been completely depleted. Unfortunately, land transportation is important because it provides us with a way to quickly carry products and materials from one place to another. Your challenge today will require you to work as a mechanical engineer to design an electric motorcycle.

This lesson has only camp version 
Camp: Design the Future
      Lesson Name: Motorcycle Mayhem

Rubber Band Racer

Students will be challenged to create a race car that is propelled by a non-traditional power source. A rubber band will power the racer, creating an energy source that can be used indefinitely. Students will also be challenged to modify their racer so that it is able to consistently stop on a finish line.


During the creation of ShooFlyBot, another mechatronic motion is explored, clockwork mechanical movement. Clockwork mechanical movement, which is often seen in the back and forth walking motions in Robotic design, is part of experimentation. Students develop their own self-designed Robot that helps mankind by shooing away any irritating flying insects in their way.

Speedy Racer

In this lesson, students create a device that uses air pressure in propelling a small car will show students how driving or resisting forces act on the wheel and axle. In this lesson, young engineers will use the Engineering Design Process as they predict, test, and improve the air flow, direction of travel, and manipulate resistant flaps which affect the aerodynamic acceleration of the car.


During this lesson students learn how human behaviors are mimicked in Robotic design, and how robots are often created to perform a task. Students create the Tidybot, a robot in which the vibration from a small hobby motor attached on a cleaning duster replicates a dusting motion. Students engage in the fun task of creating and testing a robot that could possibly perform a task they don’t want to do!