Project: The Immovable Object
Science topic: Forces
Participants: Year 5&6 pupils
Artist: Craig Dyson
We are focusing on a particular aspect of Forces by looking at levers and pulleys and how they can increase the force applied to an object. We will be making pulley and lever systems much like those in the Road Runner cartoon (beep beep!) to demonstrate how seemingly impossible actions can occur with little effort. We were inspired by Road Runner because at first it just seems funny, but when you look carefully you see how much there is to learn from the scientific traps and kinetic machines that are made by The Road Runner’s arch enemy, Wile E:Coyote, in the cartoons. We are aiming to work together as a class to build a large pulley system that can lift a huge, immovable object such as an anvil or an elephant. Watch this space!
Session 1: 1st February 2017
And so our involvement in Change 2017 begins! Some of us thought it was a scientific project and some thought it was an arts project but we were all right. We are mixing art with science to create an immovable object, but we have a trick up our sleeves – a simple machine that can move it. We met Craig, the artist we will be working with, and we learnt all about levers and pulleys, which are going to be very important when we make our final sculpture (the immovable object). We became real professors with names, forensic suits and notepads. We did lots of activities – coming up with some initial designs for the final piece, experimenting with levers like crow bars and claw hammers, and using pulleys to lift a heavy barrel of water. We even lifted three times our body weight by moving the fulcrum on a seesaw. We identified all the levers and pulleys around us – the winning team found 23 different ones. We didn’t realise how much science is all around us!
“I felt as though I couldn’t answer many questions at the beginning but at the end I felt like professor brains”
“I felt like a real scientist in my forensic suit”
“I couldn’t lift the heavy barrel but when I used a pulley it felt really light”
“I haven’t used pulleys before, they’re like magic!”
“I am designing the ultimate immovable object – the earth”
“The children were really enthusiastic and quickly immersed themselves in the practical activities based around work on pulleys and levers. The session really brought out the best in their thinking skills and it was fantastic to see them offering ideas and trying them out” (staff member)
Session 2: 9th February 2017
We arrived in the classroom today to see many surprises! One was something big that was covered up and the other was a real professional engineer from Cummins Turbo, Rinita Bose. She studied chemical engineering at Edinburgh University and must have a very big brain. We had created lots of design in the last session but were intrigued to see what this big thing under the cover was. We answered some scientific questions and with each one we got correct Craig would take more of the cover off. It looked like the skeleton of a sumo wrestler! This would be our framework for the immovable object but we need to put our own twist on the design. The framework could become many things – some of the best ideas were things like Teenage Mutant Ninja Sumo and Healeysaurus Rex. As well as developing our design ideas we continued with experiments to develop our knowledge on levers and pulleys – this week we lifted chairs using three or more pulleys, which made the lifting very easy.
“Today I learnt that it’s better if you work as a team because it gets the job done”
“I learnt how important safety is when building sculpture”
“Today I pulled a pan on a pulley and it did not need a lot of effort because it was assisted by gravity and we used numerous pulleys”
“Gentle taps make nails go into the wood slowly but when you apply more force they go in quicker”
“We used levers to pull the nails out of the wood. When you put your hand further away on the lever it’s easier, when you put it close it’s really hard to pull it out, so the bigger the lever the more force you add even if you put the same effort in”
“I think I enjoyed myself even more than the kid. I was amazed at how the mini-professors (pupils) managed to sculpt the card around the frame using a double curvature technique which was a new skill” (staff member)
Session 3: 16th February 2017
While Craig and Rinita have been away we have been working on the big immovable object during our lunchtimes because we enjoy it and want to help with every part of its construction. We added ‘body’ onto the framework, which means building up on the metal outlines to make it rounded and sculptural. We started the session looking at clay and trying to develop designs from the last session into a more sculptural form. We also cut wood and nailed pieces together to make a miniature version of the lifting machine that will move the immovable object. Finally we started the second process of the Teenage Mutant Sumo Turtle – one of the ideas from session 2 that we have decided to develop. We added bags newspaper as the first process and now we added newspaper and tape to create definition. We then layered over some more newspaper so that it acts as skin. Next session we are adding a wet process that will dry very hard and give our sculpture strength.
“When I came to the first session a few weeks ago I did not feel as confident as I do now”
“Today I learned how to use a saw, we made sure we used the right technique and worked in pairs so that we were safe”
“We sculpted mini sumo wrestler turtles with clay, they represent the immovable object we are making as a full class”
“Although today was hard I feel I have made a big improvement in both my art and my science work”
“The children really enjoyed making 3D clay models of their sumo designs from our last session. They experimented with constructing scaled down versions of the wooden framework we will use for the ‘lifting machine’. I’ve noticed them feel a real sense of achievement as the sessions progress” (staff member)
Session 4: 3rd March 2017
The final session! We accomplished so many goals today. As a final treat we were introduced to lots of new and different activities including professional cutting of wood. We learned how to measure and mark out in millimetres – this helps to get things extra accurate, which will be very important when it comes to lifting our immovable object from the framework that is being built. We worked as a team when we were using the wood saws to ensure we were safe. We added paper maché to the Sumo Turtle and tried to create the shape of his fat body along with the turtle back. We will paint the design on once it has dried. Finally we were allowed to use the giant catapult that Year 7 students at Upper Batley High School have been building with Craig. It acts as a giant lever that fires things much further than we could throw them. We used lots of different missiles and some went further than others. We were very surprised with some of the results. Now we have got a flavour of what other people have been doing in their workshops we can’t wait for the exhibition – it will be great to see their work finished as well as our own.
“This room looks the most exciting it’s ever done”
“I felt quite lucky to use an old medieval design catapult. It is basically a giant lever. It surprised me to see how far certain objects went compared to others”
“Teenage mutant ninja turtle will take over the world with his immovable weight and personal gravitational field”
“How can you beat getting messy and learning science?”
“What a great end to a fantastic few days working on this project. I have seen children engaging in such a way that I didn’t expect and the key knowledge gained is undeniable, not to mention the lift in overall confidence. The pupils and I are extremely excited to visit the exhibition and see our work in a professional setting” (staff member)
A few final words from our teacher
” It was easy to see how the children were immediately interested in learning how Laura, our Cummins buddy, had become an engineer – a good role model, particularly for our girls who seemed surprised that a young woman would have that kind of job. Hopefully it will widen their horizons when considering their own futures. Craig was also a fantastic inspiration to both children and staff, he talked and engaged with everyone so well. Children were particularly enthralled by the short presentation of his work and his explanation of how his interest in 3D sculpture had grown from his shared experiences with his grandad and quite humble beginnings. He was able to create a good mix of challenge and support throughout the project. We would all love to work with him again.” Lorna Wragg – Class Teacher