What is an Archimedes Screw?

Have you ever heard of Archimedes? He was a Greek scientist born in Syracuse, Sicily in a Greek empire and made so many advances in science.  He reminds me of my second child in that he was so preoccupied with his studies that when the city he was living in was taken over, he didn’t even notice and was stabbed to death in the back.  My Elijah is one to get lost in his thoughts and he would be an Archimedes, so involved in discovery as to be oblivious to a siege. Some days that is a good thing….other days it makes school work impossible.  But hey, I may just have a little genius on my hands.

At the beginning of the school year, I asked them what they would like to learn about and Greece was one of their answers.  So when school resumed after break we began our unit on Ancient Greece.  In an unplanned coincidence it turns out the Winter Olympics are coming up in February and I’m excited to tie that into our lessons soon.

In our studies, it’s easy to combine science and writing into a unit like this because Ancient Greek inventions and scientists in that society have led to so many innovations that we enjoy today and while exploring Archimedes and reading about him in different grade level appropriate formats, we had a wonderful hands on experience with the Archimedes screw and how it works.

Above: Elijah uses the Archimedes Screw found in the children’s area at the Michigan Science Center to illustrate how it works to move the ball up from the lower level to the fountain level. As you turn the wheel, the ball moves up the screw. The original intention of the Archimedes Screw is to be able to move water from a lower level to a higher elevation which greatly helped with irrigation etc. thousands of years ago.

We started out our investigation with the Archimedes for Children website where we found a brief biography and some videos to explain other important principles such as water displacement and pulleys. Then we went to a Stem Academy website where we found instructions to make our own Archimedes Screw at home.

You can see Jacob demonstrate his homemade Archimedes Screw on YouTube here.

You can see Elijah demonstrate his Archimedes Screw here.

We ran into some issues when we used irregular shaped Diet Dr. Pepper bottles and a Pepsi bottle which weren’t straight like the water bottle in the instructions, so we ran into a few snags getting the card stock screws in without bending or catching.  BUT, that’s an opportunity to learn from our mistakes and they enjoyed the activity as you can see from the videos.  They evaluated their projects and the next day we went to the Michigan Science Center to further our exploration. They did a GREAT job!

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