Crankshaft Lesson Plan

Description: Make a moving cardboard machine using a crankshaft mechanism. Children first visualize, sketch, and then create a moving paper toy.  As examples, the motion of a crankshaft might suggest a bobbing sea creature, a balancing acrobat, a blooming flower, or an undulating animal.

Learning Targets:
Become familiar with the motion of a crankshaft moving as guided through a slotted lever.  Think about how to create an interesting story or narrative incorporating that motion.  Gain practice in designing and crafting with cardboard, glue, and other materials.

Grade Band: 4th – 7th
Age Range: 8-12 years old
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Learning Time: 90 minutes

Craft Tools

  • Glue gun + glue sticks
  • Scissors
  • Cutting knife + mat
  • Lollipop sticks or bbq skewers
  • Cellophane tape
  • Masking tape
  • Pencil

Materials (Paper)
Scrap cardboard pieces
Colored craft paper

(Optional) Other decorative material suggestions:  googly eyes, sequins, feathers, craft foam, glitter, pipe cleaners, yarn.

Workshop Materials

Activity Overview:

10 min  – Imagine.  Set placemats at each place setting, one per child. Ask them to sketch, plan, and draw their ideas. Review instructions on how to build the mechanism. Help children get started by asking them what the motion of the crankshaft might suggest.

45 min  – Make & Test. Distribute one set of materials per project. Help students name the parts and their purposes – a servo motor, a microcontroller, and so on. Have students start assembling their mechanism. Remind students to test their mechanism’s motion with a microcontroller to troubleshoot any motion problems before decorating it.

30 min –  Decorate & Write. Set craft materials at a separate table. Invite students to decorate their mechanisms only after they have tested their movements. Ask students who finish early to write an exhibit label description on a card.

10 min – Share & Reflect. Ask students to test their machines to see if it moves as expected. Showcase their creations. Invite children to share what inspired them to make their machine; what challenges they faced and how they overcame them.  Ask them what they might change or do differently if they had more time.

Other Resources