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Can you move a small object from one place to another using hydraulics?


Core National Curriculum links

Science, DT, Maths

Other National Curriculum links

Literacy (instructions, labelled diagrams)

Main engineering principles

  • Pupils are engaged in the purposeful practical problem solving
  • Pupils take ownership of the design and make process
  • Pupils embrace and learn from failure
  • Pupils draw on a range of thinking skills and personal capabilities


A series of lessons


System thinking, Adapting, Visualising, Improving

EDP stages

Create, Improve

Resources required

Cardboard, BBQ sticks, glue gun, masking tape, six 10ml syringes (per crane), 3mm plastic pipe, cardboard cutters/good scissors, plastic ties.

Summary of activity

Measure and cut cardboard shapes to make a crane like structure. Use syringes to act as hydraulics.

To open the activity

Present pupils with the challenge question. Can I move a small object from one place to another using hydraulics?

The main activity

Cut and measure parts of a crane like structure. (You might need to draw out a template first)
Mark and make holes in the cardboard where the pivots are.
Line up the cardboard structure. Push BBQ skewers in holes.
Drill holes in top ends of syringes.
Ties plastic ties on the bottom of syringes.
Put into place with skewers.
Fill Fix the plastic tube on the syringes.
Now make the grab.
You need to look the video clip/pictures to get an idea of what it might look like.

Challenge and support

Support with cutting and fixing.

Challenge by getting the crane to turn on its base.

To finish the activity

Test your crane structure and see if it is strong enough to lift various items.

Learn from me (what worked well for us)

How are the forces acting on the structure of the crane.

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